On the heels of the launch of a movement to draft Rep. Joe Kennedy for U.S. Senate, the occupant of that Senate seat is flexing some muscle among progressive leaders.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., hauled in early endorsements from two liberal groups in recent days and six Massachusetts members of Congress said they were supporting him.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the backing comes just days after a group of Kennedy supporters started a petition drive, website and Facebook page to convince Kennedy to run for Markey’s seat instead of sticking with his plans to seek re-election to the House.

The group has made it clear they are not opposed to Markey, but admire Kennedy, D-Brookline, both personally and politically.

“This is really about Congressman Kennedy. That’s where the focus is,” organizer Barbara Kamholz said.

That did not stop NARAL, Pro Choice America and Coalition for Social Justice from issuing strong endorsements of Markey a full year before the 2020 primary election.

“Senator Markey has been a front line, progressive fighter for justice throughout his career,” NARAL said.

Then on Friday The Boston Globe reported that Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Reps. Jim McGovern, Richard Neal, Stephen Lynch, William Keating, and Lori Trahan are supporting Markey for re-election.

Kennedy, who represents the Attleboro area, has repeatedly said he is running for re-election, but someone has commissioned a poll measuring his strength against Markey in a primary. And now there is a draft movement.

The leaders of the draft effort are Democratic activists and many have been volunteers on Kennedy’s past campaigns.

One is Junior Paquette of Fall River, who has several pro-Kennedy postings on his Facebook page.

Another is Jamie Hoag of Watertown, a former aide to McGovern and former Gov. Deval Patrick.

Kamholz, a Brookline resident, said she supports Kennedy because she is impressed with his call for “moral capitalism,” and his positions on gay rights, gun violence, climate change and other issues.

She said she has worked on his campaign and helped organize his marchers in the Gay Pride Parade. The draft movement, called Ready4Joe3, is not coordinating with Kennedy or his campaign and the group had nothing to do with the poll, nor do they know the results.

There has been some speculation in political circles that the poll and draft group are intended to convince Markey to retire rather than run in a tough primary, but Kamholz said she knows nothing about that.

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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