Ed Markey
Martha Coakley campaign
Markey, one step closer to the U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey handily won the Democratic primary for Massachusetts’ special election to fill the Senate seat recently vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. In June’s general election, Markey will go up against Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez, an ex-Navy SEAL, son of Colombian immigrants, successful businessman, and political outsider who has never held office.

Markey, one of the most passionate environmentalists in Congress, coauthored the big climate bill that passed the House in 2009 but failed in the Senate. A 20-term House veteran, he ran on his long liberal track record, but he also got a boost from green backers. The League of Conservation Voters spent nearly $850,000 in support of his campaign. Meanwhile, San Francisco rich-guy do-gooder Tom Steyer spent more than $400,000 on “online ads and microtargeting,” according to Mother Jones; many of those ads attacked Markey’s primary opponent, South Boston “conservative” Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, for his support of the Keystone XL pipeline. And it doesn’t look like Steyer plans on closing his pocketbook after this early victory, MoJo reports:

Steyer says he will use his fortune, estimated at $1.4 billion, to drag the issue of climate change into the spotlight in American politics and to combat the influence of climate change deniers and the oil lobby. He’s taking a similar approach to the climate issue that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg takes on gun control: supporting candidates who see things his way and attacking those who do not. “Really, what we’re trying to do is to make a point that people who make good decisions on this should be rewarded, and people should be aware that if they do the wrong thing, the American voters are watching and they will be punished,” Steyer told the Hill.

Long active in California politics, the Markey-Lynch race was Steyer’s first big foray as an outside spender into a marquee Congressional race. …

Steyer has yet to say if he’ll go after Gabriel Gomez in the general election. But he’s one for one so far, and given every indication he plans to spend a lot more money in the months and years ahead.

Markey is now the favorite to win Kerry’s Senate seat. Gomez wears “his lack of Washington politics as a badge of honor,” says Mother Jones, and “cast himself as the new face of the Republican Party.” But despite Americans’ hunger for change in Congress, it’s hard to imagine a deep-blue state like Massachusetts picking a Mitt Romney-esque transplant from the business world over a trusted longtime representative. Still, after Republican Scott Brown’s unexpected win in a 2010 special election, no one’s taking anything for granted.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that in an early April poll, 51 percent of voters picked Markey and 36 percent favored Gomez in a matchup between the two candidates. After Elizabeth Warren’s high-profile defeat of Brown last November, Massachusetts could have a powerfully progressive team in the Senate if Markey wins.