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Kennedy officially announces his campaign for Massachusetts’s senate seat in 2020

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III at a September 2018 event in Copley Square ahead of the Massachusetts general election. The congressman on Saturday officially launched a primary bid for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Ed Markey. RACHEL SHARPLES/ DFP FILE

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III announced Saturday he will be challenging incumbent Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey for senate in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Kennedy, who currently represents Massachusetts’s 4th district — which sits directly southwest of Boston — made his announcement during an event at East Boston Social Centers and said during his speech that he was running to place more pressure on President Donald Trump in Congress.

“I’m running for the United States Senate because our country is at a moment of truth,” Kennedy said. “Donald Trump has forced a long overdue reckoning in America, and how we respond will say everything about who we are.”

Kennedy said once he is elected he plans to “take on” the system that allowed for Trump to be elected in the first place. 

Kennedy has been outspoken against President Trump in the past and gave the Democratic response to the 2018 State of the Union address. During the response, Kennedy criticized the Trump administration’s position on immigration, health care and corporate tax cuts. 

Kennedy’s decision to run against Markey, who has been a congressman for Massachusetts since 1976, pits the young member of the Kennedy political dynasty against the second longest serving congressman in office.

Markey is also being challenged by former Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton and workers’ rights lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan in the 2020 Democratic primary election.

Maurice Cunningham, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said because Markey and Kennedy share similar platforms and ideological leanings, Massachusetts voters’ loyalties will be split between the two candidates, which may damage the state’s Democratic party.

“[The race] will create bad feelings one way or another,” Cunningham said, “There are loyalists to both, they’re both in the mainstream of the party, so it’s not an insurgency, in that sense, but it will cause bad feelings among partisans of both candidates.”

Cunningham said Kennedy may have decided to run after seeing both Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeat the Democratic incumbent during the 2018 elections.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Kennedy is trying to catch some of the wave that was represented by [Representative Ayanna] Pressley and [Representative Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez last year but obviously he’s another white male, in this case from a dominant political family so the parallels are not very tightly drawn,” Cunningham said. 

Markey has been endorsed by presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, according to WGBH

While Markey has a longer tenure than Kennedy, Cunningham said the senator’s experience and political relationships will not have a great impact on voters.

I don’t think endorsements have a huge impact ultimately on voters’ decision,” Cunningham said. “It certainly helps institutionally, it helps with the campaign and it helps for activists to know … but these kinds of endorsements generally play a very secondary role, if any.” 

Cunningham said while recent polling data by The Boston Globe shows Kennedy leading against Markey, it may be too soon to tell how voters will ultimately lean. 

“Right now, polls show that Kennedy is comfortably ahead but voters aren’t really engaged yet,” Cunningham said. “Kennedy is touting youth and generational change and Markey has been more focused on his record, frankly, particularly environmental, so it remains to be seen what voters are going to respond to a year from now.”

Emma Andrianopoulos, 23, of Brookline, said while she does value experience when picking a candidate, it is still too early for her to form opinions on who would be better in office.

“I think experience matters and being a good person,” Andrianopoulos said. “I have to like them and what they’re running for. I think I take each person for who they are.”

While the political lineage and name recognition of Kennedy attracts some voters, others are interested in the new perspective Kennedy offers. 

Ann Werner, 58, of Brighton, said she was interested in seeing a fresh face represent Massachusetts in the Senate.

“Someone that’s been around since 1976 like Markey is negative for me, it’s time to get some fresh ideas in there,” Werner said.

Mercedes Meach, 25, of Back Bay, said while she would like to see someone new in office, she will not take age into account when deciding who to vote for.

“It would be nice to have something new and fresh,” Meach said. “I would want someone, you know, a little bit more fresh-faced. I don’t see age as an issue, I guess, it would just be nice to have someone with a different perspective.”

Following his campaign announcement in East Boston, Kennedy is touring the state to highlight the key issues facing Massachusetts residents, according to the press release. 

“This isn’t a moment for waiting, for sitting on the sidelines, or for playing by old rules that don’t work anymore,” Kennedy said. “This is the fight for our lives, the fight of my generation. I’m all in.”

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