Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

The Race for Senate: A Look at Ed Markey vs. Joe Kennedy

By Connor Bils and Zoya Siddiqui

Profile: Ed Markey

Picture a straight, white, Christian male who has been in Congress since the 1970s. This is the image that younger democrats have of the old guard of the party establishment, one which is withering away as newer more progressive candidates take the stage. This, however, cannot be said of Ed Markey, the current Massachusetts Senator who is facing a primary challenge by Joe Kennedy in 2020.

Ed Markey came from humble beginnings, working as an ice cream truck driver to pay for tuition at Boston College. He continued his BC education by attending Boston College Law school before serving in the Army reserve. Eventually, Markey was elected in the Massachusetts State House and later elected as a U.S. representative in 1976, serving until 2013 when he won the special Senate election. 

Today, Markey is known for being a left-wing member of the Democratic party and co-sponsoring the Green New Deal and a Medicare For All bill. He has multiple allies in Congress such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, who have all looked to him as a fellow progressive. 

The issue that has been at the front and center of his campaign and tenure in recent years has been climate change. As previously stated, he co-sponsored the Green New Deal, an all encompassing bill designed to help the United States tackle the issue of Climate Change in the next few years. 

Before the issue garnered the widespread concern seen today, Markey proposed The American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009, a bill designed to limit U.S. oil consumption and invest money in job training for clean energy. During his final years in the House, he was the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. 

With the primary race coming up next year, Markey has been faced with a number of challenges. First, according to a Suffolk University poll this month, Kennedy has gained a head start on Markey, leading him 35 percent to 26 percent among likely voters. 

Secondly, Kennedy holds a famous name with a great amount of clout in Massachusetts and has raised more money than Markey at this point in the race. 

Third, although he takes liberal positions on every issue, many regard Markey as a career-politician that has spent decades in the halls of Washington, whereas Kennedy is 38 with a young family. 

These issues may seem troubling for Markey, but he still has numerous advantages over Kennedy. He has received several endorsements from progressive groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and the Sunrise Movement. Fellow legislators have endorsed him as well, including 116 state lawmakers and Presidential front runner and fellow Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

In addition, many Democrats are upset with Kennedy for taking up resources that could be better spent on more competitive races in the upcoming election, rather than on a primary battle in a safe state. In fact, many anticipated that Kennedy would wait to see the outcome of Warren’s campaign for President and then potentially take her Senate seat. 

Kennedy has also yet to distinguish himself from Markey on any issues of policy, making many question whether his campaign is simply a vanity project for another Kennedy. 

Profile: Joe Kennedy III

For most people, Joe Kennedy’s political career feels like fate. The four-term congressman from Brighton, MA does, after all, carry the Kennedy family legacy with him. But despite his seemingly predestined career in politics, it's still worth examining how the Congressman came to represent Massacheusette’s 4th District, especially as he gears up for a senatorial campaign against Senator Ed Markey, who, with his combined time in the House and Senate, has served in Congress for over forty years. 

Kennedy was born in 1980 to Joe Kennedy II and Sheila Brewster. His father, who served in Congress from 1987 to 1999, is the son of Ethel Skakel and Robert Kennedy, who served as Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and as a New York State Senator from 1965 until his death in 1968. Kennedy was raised outside of Boston alongside his twin brother, Matthew.

In 1999, Kennedy started his undergraduate education at Stanford, where he majored in management science and engineering. After graduating from Stanford, Kennedy went to the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps, which President John F. Kennedy had established in 1961. It wasn’t until after two years in the Dominican Republic that Kennedy came back to Massachusetts, and started law school at Harvard.  

While at Harvard, Kennedy also worked for their Legal Aid Bureau, which provided legal services to low-income tenants during the 2008 financial crisis. In 2009, he graduated from Harvard Law and began working as an assistant DA for the Cape and Islands Office, a position he also filled at the Middlesex County DAs Office two years later. 

Kennedy’s political career began in 2012 when he first ran for Congress. During that campaign, he ran on the promise of fighting for better education, fairer tax codes, housing policies, and job plans. During his time in Congress, Kennedy has served on the Committees for Foreign Affairs, Science, Space, and Technology, and currently serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. 

Since entering Congress, Joe Kennedy has made a name for himself as an advocate for minority rights. In 2013, he participated in a twenty-four hour fast along with immigrant activists to draw Congress’s attention to immigration reform. In 2018, as part of his State of the Union rebuttal, he emphasized the role of immigrants in America, marking his point by giving part of his speech in Spanish. 

Earlier this year, Kennedy joined other lawmakers as they toured immigrant detention centers in Texas. On Twitter, he condemned the conditions of the centers: “The entire system is broken, rotten and rife with abuse. And Trump doubles down on it despite the growing horror—child detention, metering, Remain in Mexico, threatened ICE raids. Every action he takes exacerbates and entrenches the humanitarian crisis at our nation's feet.” 

Kennedy has also been a proponent of LGBTQ+ rights and serves as the chair of the Congressional Trans Equality Task Force. As head of the Task Force, Kennedy introduced the Do No Harm Act in 2017. Its aim was to refine the Religious Freedom Restoration Act so that it could not be used to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Abigail McHugh, MCAS ‘20, has been working with Congressman Kennedy’s office since she was a freshman. When asked over email about what makes Kennedy unique as a politician, she said, “Joe is an incredibly well-rounded politician. Most people that I have come across have one project that they put their life's work in, but Joe is able to be extremely successful in a bunch of different policy sectors. From health care to immigration to organized labor, Joe has been an exceptional champion in his short time in Congress.” 

McHugh also highlighted his youth as a selling point for Kennedy, adding, “The average age in the US Senate is about 62 years old. Joe is only 38 he is able to bring energy and passion that is much needed to the Senate.”

During his time in Congress, Joe Kennedy has made a name for himself that extends far beyond the weight and power of his last name. This is not to say, however, that the significance of being a Kennedy is lost on him. 

For example, conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post entitled “The Party of Robert F. Kennedy is Gone,” criticizing Democratic rhetoric as being “incendiary and dangerous, and also politically self-destructive.” Kennedy responded with a piece of his own

In the article, Kennedy rebukes the argument that his grandfather’s rhetoric was fundamentally different from that of today’s politicians. He claimed that what made RFK a great politician was not his speeches, but his compassion, drive, and genuine desire to make the United State’s a better place. At the end of the piece, Kennedy says, “What is at stake in this moment is not Bobby Kennedy’s legacy. It is our own.” 

As he prepares for a senatorial campaign that could define his political career forever, Joe Kennedy’s legacy is certainly at stake. But regardless of the outcome of this race, he has already left a mark on politics that will surely be remembered for decades to come. 


Comments