The motives behind Congressman Kennedy’s Senate run were uncertain
On Sept. 18, 2019, Congressman Joe Kennedy III announced that he would be running against Senator Ed Markey in the Democratic primary in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When I became aware of this news, I asked myself why. Why would Kennedy forfeit his secure congressional seat to run against an incumbent who has helped pass many laws that have benefited the commonwealth? As I sat to fill out my mail-in ballot after almost a year of his campaign, I remained confused by Kennedy’s motives to run for office.
On most issues, Markey and Kennedy rarely differ. Both are co-sponsors of Medicare for All, though they signed on to the bill at different times. Both support a woman’s right to choose, LGBTQ+ rights and gun control. The commonality between the two men’s politics made it even less clear as to why Kennedy would run against Markey. Kennedy attempted to answer why he would be a better representative for MA than Senator Markey. His response was twofold: Firstly, he believes MA needs a new voice representing its constituents. Secondly, he advertised himself as running on a progressive platform. I found both of these reasons bothersome.
Kennedy claiming that Massachusetts needs a new voice would be a good idea if it were coming from a different candidate. It’s true that Markey has been an elected official for a long time. In fact, he was elected to Congress four years before Kennedy was born. However, in no way would Kennedy bring a new voice to Washington. He has been in Congress for seven years, not to mention that his family has been a staple in MA politics ever since Kennedy’s great grand uncle John F. Kennedy was sworn into office in Congress in 1947. While Markey has been serving the commonwealth for decades, Kennedy moving from the House of Representatives to the Senate is definitely not bringing new blood into leadership.
Throughout this campaign, Kennedy claimed to be a progressive and more progressive than Markey. He touted his record including that he was an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal while ignoring the fact that Markey co-wrote the deal and was endorsed by several environmental organizations including Sunrise and the Sierra Club. Other progressive groups also endorsed the senator, including Our Revolution MA, Moms Demand Action, Progressive Democrats of America, NARAL pro-choice PAC, Planned Parenthood of MA, Action PAC and many unions throughout the commonwealth. Whether through endorsements or legislation worked on in Congress, it is clear that Ed Markey was the true progressive in this race.
Kennedy’s last argument claiming that he would better represent the people of the commonwealth is problematic. In no way has Markey been the perfect senator. However, I do not think that Kennedy would be a better representative. Kennedy comes from a wealthy family, in fact, his father Joe Kennedy II funneled millions of dollars into a super PAC aimed at electing his son. However, Markey is the son of a milkman and paid his way through college by operating an ice cream truck. Throughout his tenure, Markey has authored or co-signed over 500 bills that have helped the commonwealth and the country. In 1999, he helped establish the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force that mandated the federal government implement a plan to address the disease by 2025. In 1996, Markey wrote the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which gave internet access to schools and libraries throughout the country.
Additionally, Markey was endorsed by fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives. He also garnered the support of the ‘Markeyverse;’ a group of students started Students for Markey where hundreds of students from around the country phone banked and campaigned for the senator while also blowing up social media. Students for Markey was started in response to the senator’s landmark Green New Deal. Young people knew that if Markey lost his primary, the legislation that aims to protect the planet from climate change would have been dealt a huge blow.
Kennedy decided to enter this race without a clear answer as to why he wanted to run. Furthermore, he relied too heavily on the Kennedy family name. Because of Markey’s progressive policies and his many accomplishments throughout his tenure, I proudly voted for Senator Markey.