Congressman Joe Kennedy III campaigned in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Sunday after announcing his bid to unseat Senator Ed Markey, a fellow Democrat.
Kennedy set the stage for the primary battle with a kickoff event in East Boston Saturday. The next day, he traveled the state making his case for an intra-party shakeup.
“The last 12 or 24 hours have shown me more than anything else is the energy that is out there for this moment,” said the congressman.
At Hotel On North in downtown Pittsfield, Kennedy addressed local leaders like District Attorney Andrea Harrington at a breakfast hosted by State Senator Adam Hinds.
“If you believe that our system is broken, if you believe that there are voices that are shut out – and not just shut out because they struggle to find ways to elevate them, but that there are structures in our society that deliberately keep and carve people out of the system,” said Kennedy.
In office since 2013, the congressman vowed to make regular visits to the region, where public officials frequently say they feel ignored by Beacon Hill.
“If we talk about challenges to economic growth and regional dynamism, look, I represent areas on the southern coast of Massachusetts – Fall River and Taunton," he told attendees. "We’ve been talking about regional equity for an awfully long time. We’ve been talking about south coast rail for an awfully long time – maybe you guys have heard something about a rail system coming out here. If we’re going to gauge economic development by boost to GDP or boost to productivity, that’s great, Boston’s going to win every single one of them. Silicon Valley is going to win them. Maybe Manhattan. There’s more to development in our country than the measure of GDP.”
While he criticized President Donald Trump over obstructing the Mueller investigation and news that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Kennedy said the problems America faces don’t lie with the president alone.
“You also have to recognize that 63 million Americans believe that he was going to be a better steward of their hopes and dreams and aspirations and earned their vote," said the congressman. "And so yes, you’ve got to fight back against Donald Trump, but if you don’t fight back against the system that allowed him to win 63 million votes – folks, we’re missing the entire battle.”
Steve Pemberton and Shannon Liss-Riordan are already running to unseat Markey, who has vowed to vigorously defend his seat.
Speaking with reporters, Kennedy said Massachusetts needs a Senator “laser focused and engaged on three big issues,” starting with making sure that state residents are being heard.
“You do that by showing up and making sure that their voices are at the table, their concerns are being addressed in the policies down in Washington," said Kennedy. "Two, it’s fighting for those policies in Washington. Yes, critical issues like the Green New Deal and climate change, but also about affordable housing, regional economic development, a disastrous foreign policy that we’ve got, and insuring that a job at the moment allows you to meet the needs of a family. And third, it’s about changing the politics that we’re seeing that are so broken across this country. That begins with beating Donald Trump, but it also means flipping the Senate out of Mitch McConnell’s control into one that is actually reflective of where our country is and where we’re headed. I was able to contribute to that in the House when we flipped the House last cycle, and I hope to be able to do so should I be elected in the United States Senate.”
The Green New Deal is Markey’s signature legislation, which he co-sponsored with New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The first-term senator has received endorsements already from Ocasio-Cortez and other powerful progressives like fellow senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. Kennedy co-sponsored the Green New Deal in the House, but says the lengths he’ll go to change the system to make it and other progressive objectives a reality distinguish him from Markey.
“If you’re going to pass a Green New Deal, we need to dismantle the filibuster that has put up obstacles to progressive policies now for decades," he told reporters. "I’ve called for it, Senator Markey hasn’t. I’m not taking corporate PAC money, Senator Markey is. I believe that there should be term limits on Supreme Court Justices so you decrease the temperature around these confirmations. Markey hasn’t called for any of it. I believe that we need to end the Electoral College so that the people of this country actually get the president that they voted for, not one built by an archaic system that structurally disadvantages so many voices across our country.”
Kennedy distanced himself from a report published by Sludge this month about his family’s considerable investments in fossil fuel companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil, which have opposed the Green New Deal.
“The fossil fuel investments there are held in family trust over which I exercise no control," said the congressman. "My personal holdings don’t have those, and I stand by an extremely strong record of advocating for climate protection, environmental protection against climate change, and again, as an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal.”
Kennedy said he was happy to put his progressive record up against anyone on that and other issues.
“Whether it’s fighting for transgender rights, whether it’s trying to make sure that we have an immigration system that is reflective of our values and the humanity of every single person coming to this country and protecting refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.
Kennedy is 38. Markey is 73 and the dean of the state’s D.C. delegation. And Kennedy made age a part of his platform, asking “if not now, when” on issues like student loan debt, the cost of rent, and climate change.
“What more needs to be at stake for a next generation if not economic issues around trying to make it somewhat feasible to be able to raise a family when the cost of childcare in this state and in 28 states across the country cost more than tuition to public university,” said Kennedy.
As for his family legacy, the grandson of Robert Kennedy and grand-nephew of John Kennedy and Ted Kennedy said that “this one’s on me.”
“I’m on the ballot," said the congressman. "Not my dad or my grandfather or any of his brothers or sisters or anybody else for that matter. This one’s one me, and I’ve got to go out there and make the case as they did to be able to earn the trust, respect, and support of the people of Massachusetts, and I intend to do that.”
The primary is September 15, 2020.