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Some Berkshire County State Lawmakers Are Split Over Kennedy-Markey Primary

With Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy challenging U.S. Senator Ed Markey in the 2020 Democratic primary, some Berkshire County state lawmakers are taking sides.

Congressman Joe Kennedy has promoted his candidacy as a generational choice, while Senator Ed Markey, the dean of the delegation, says he intends to run vigorously on his record.

Democratic state representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of the 3rd Berkshire District described Markey as “an outstanding U.S. Senator” who has been “excellent for Pittsfield.”

“He’s particularly taken on Charter Spectrum with us, and he is working with trying to change some FCC regulations so we can get a Boston television station in the Berkshires, as opposed to only getting New York news,” said Farley-Bouvier.

She condemned Kennedy’s effort to unseat him.

“We have a prime objective for 2020, and that is to change who is sitting in the White House," she told WAMC. "And anything that diverts attention, money, activist hours from that objective is really shortsighted and it’s harmful to our country. And I think this particular primary race is going to divert a tremendous amount of attention and dollars from that objective and I think it was an unwise move by Congressman Kennedy.”

Meanwhile, State Senator Adams Hinds has endorsed Kennedy, hosting a September event for him in Pittsfield. He echoed Kennedy’s remarks about “showing up” in Western Massachusetts in comments to reporters.

“Obviously it wasn’t an easy decision to make," said Hinds. "We have an incumbent U.S. Senator, but it feels like there’s a really important moment right now where we do need to change our system, we do need to ask the big questions, the tough questions, and who brings the gravitas to have a national impact, who’s right on the issues – he’s strong on the environment, he’s strong on LGBTQ issues, and down the line. And so after a lot of consideration, I decided he’s the one who brings the energy and will mobilize the young voters and beyond, and so I’m so excited to be with him.”

Farley-Bouvier and Hinds are at odds over which candidate is more progressive.

Farley-Bouvier on Kennedy:

“I don’t think he has nearly the progressive record of Ed Markey. I mean, I don’t think you get more progressive than Ed Markey when it comes to somebody in the Senate, and I would say that’s particularly true on climate change and what he’s been willing to do there. When it comes to Net Neutrality, Ed Markey has been on the forefront of that.”

Hinds on Kennedy:

“He’s someone who quite honestly has been supportive of the Green New Deal, and Medicare For All, and he has a stronger environmental rating from the League of Conservation Voters than Senator Markey himself.”

Kennedy has a 95% lifetime score from the LCV, while Markey has a 94% lifetime score. In 2018, Markey landed a perfect 100%, while Kennedy had a 91%.

“He’s been on the frontlines in supporting human rights for immigrant families," said Hinds of Kennedy. "He’s been on the front lines of transgender rights.”

Fellow Democrat state Representative Smitty Pignatelli of the 4th Berkshire District in South County says he’s sitting out the primary for now – although Kennedy attended a Pittsfield fundraiser for him in August, just weeks before he announced.

“Joe Kennedy and I have been friends for several years," Pignatelli told WAMC. "We’ve worked on some personal and professional projects over the last six or seven years. So he came out strictly as a friend. The timing of it was interesting. But no, I’ve decided to kind of just lay low on this race.”

“I’ve made an original commitment to Senator Markey a couple of months ago," said Democratic State Representative John Barrett, of North County’s 1st Berkshire District. “When he asked me if I would support him for re-election, at that time I indicated I would. As much as I like Joe Kennedy – I’ve known him as a young man, and I’ve known him as now a congressman – and he’s an outstanding individual. However, I did make a commitment to Senator Markey and I will be supporting his candidacy for re-election.”

State Rep. Paul Mark, the Democrat who represents the 2nd Berkshire district, said he had no comment on the race.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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