Markey And Kennedy Blame Each Other For Negative Tone Of Campaign
Massachusetts U.S. Senator Edward Markey and his challenger in the Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, clashed in a final broadcast debate Tuesday night.
In their final face-to-face meeting ahead of the September 1 primary, Markey strongly defended his four decades-long record in Washington, while Kennedy tried to poke holes in it. Both denied being hypocrites about super PACs, and they blamed each other for the increasingly bitter and personal tone of the contest.
During the hour-long forum hosted at the studios of WCVB-TV, Kennedy took aim at a frequent boast by Markey that he has authored and passed over 500 bills during his legislative career.
"The senator is including bills that he co-sponsored, literally signing his name to somebody else's work," said Kennedy. "Under that definition, I am the author of the Green New Deal. The difference is, I wouldn't claim to be."
In a lengthy rebuttal, Markey ticked off a list of bills dealing with the environment, gun control, and healthcare.
"That's my law. That's my law. I have 500 of these laws and I am very proud of that record and if you want to yield back to me, I will continue on the litany of success I have had for the people of Massachusetts," said Markey.
Markey was questioned about his response to two families who came to him for help. One, the father of “DJ” Henry, a young Black man from Massachusetts who was killed by a white police officer in New York 10 years ago. Henry’s father, who has endorsed Kennedy, said Markey was slow to respond to the family’s appeals for help in seeking justice. The second, Colin Bower, whose ex-wife took their two sons to Egypt after he was awarded sole custody, has also said Markey would not help him.
Kennedy said the two cases highlight his rationale for wanting to replace Markey.
" Let me be clear. I have not been able to unify and reunify Colin with his kids, and I have not been able to actually deliver on justice for the Henry family, but the difference is that you try," said Kennedy.
Pointing to efforts he made to help families impacted by the opioid crisis, fishermen, and gig economy workers, Markey said he is proud of his constituent service.
" When my constituents talk to me, I listen to them and then I go to Washington and deliver for them by providing real leadership nationally," said Markey.
Both candidates said they would support the elimination of life without the possibility of parole as a sentence in the criminal justice system. But asked if that should apply to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Markey said no.
"I would make an exception for a terrorist," said Markey.
Kennedy said he would make no exceptions, but pointed out that there is no guarantee that parole would be granted in every case.
" Before any decision is made on that specific case those victims families need to be heard loud and clear," said Kennedy.
With voting by mail already underway and early in-person voting starting in a few days, the race has become increasingly bitter and personal. Asked why? They blamed each other.
"It's the congressman's supporters who have started these negative commercials on television," said Markey. " I don't want that. I want a positive message."
Kennedy said the moment he got in the campaign, Markey's supporters have attacked him and his family on social media.
"There was a line that was crossed that shouldn't have been," said Kennedy.
Markey was also asked to square his denunciations of super PAC spending in his previous runs for Senate with his refusal to this time.
" We need a new pledge for 2020," that Markey said would allow " environmental, women's groups, civil rights groups" to be able "to speak in Massachusetts as long as the money is disclosed totally and as long as their message is positive."
Repeating a demand he made in last week’s debate, Markey called on the congressman to tell members of his family to stop contributing to a super PAC that is running negative ads.
" I tried over and over and over again to have Senator Markey stick to his word from 2013," Kennedy said. " The only reason why super PAC money is in this race is the senator refused to stand on his word."
Asked by what method they planned to vote in the primary, Markey said he would vote by mail. Kennedy said he had requested a mail-in ballot, but had yet to receive it.