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Markey, Kennedy Make Final Appeals For Votes

Sen. Markey and Rep. Kennedy

Voters in Massachusetts are heading to the polls on what is the final day to cast a ballot in this year’s primary.   All eyes are likely on the heated race between incumbent Senator Ed Markey and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. 

Just after noon Tuesday, Markey rolled up to Springfield’s Union Station in his big campaign bus to greet a small crowd of supporters.

Although it was announced Monday by the state’s top election official that more than 850,000 people had already voted, either by mail or during the early voting period, Markey said every vote counts as he pressed for a big in-person turnout Tuesday.

"Today is a day where we should be trying to have the highest single primary vote in our state's history," said Markey.

The 74-year-old Markey has had the Senate seat since 2013, and served for decades before that in the House.  He’s boasted of a progressive record that he said includes 500 bills passed and his co-authorship of the Green New Deal.

"Justice is on the ballot and western Massachusetts has always risen to the challenge of sending signals that on race, on education, on economics, on health care, on environment we need justice in this country and it should be on the floor of the Senat next year," said Markey.

Kennedy, 39, has argued that Markey has too frequently been absent from the state and that he would be a more effective advocate in Washington and on the national stage.

When Kennedy launched his challenge almost a year ago, polls put him well in front, but now the polls show Markey with what appears to be a comfortable lead.

Speaking to reporters, Markey mixed several sports metaphors to insist he’s taking nothing for granted.

" I will be all gas and no brake from now until 8 o'clock tonight," said Markey. "I am going to run through the tape. I am taking this as a World Series. It is three games to three games and we are playing the seventh game today."

Kennedy campaigned Monday in Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee.  On primary day his schedule took him to Boston, Worcester, Fall River and New Bedford with appeals to working-class Democrats and voters of color.

"The base of my support is an election day vote, so we are spending a lot of time and effort today running around knocking on some of those doors, putting in phone calls and text messages that today is the day and we want to get them to the polls to make sure their voice is heard," said Kennedy.

Nearing the close of a sometimes ugly campaign, Kennedy, in a phone interview, said he had no regrets.

"I am really proud of our campaign and I am proud of the effort and energy of all our campaign team and staff and the way we prioritized western Massachusetts and communities across our Commonwealth," said Kennedy. "It is the way I wanted to run it and I am grateful for it."

No Kennedy has ever lost an election in Massachusetts.

But Markey appears to have too great a lead for the challenger to overcome, said Matt Szafranski, Editor-in-Chief of Western Mass Politics & Insight.

" The Kennedy's campaign's last card to play -- and it is not a bad one -- is to  goose the day-of turnout," said Szafranski.  "The polls might be off and some of Markey's support is overstated, but the gap is large enough that it doesn't matter."

The winner of the Markey-Kennedy primary will face the winner of the Republican primary in the November election.

The Republican race pits Kevin O’Connor, an attorney, against Shiva Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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