• Adam Bass

Massachusetts Senate: Legacy vs Legislation.

On Tuesday, July 28th, at 12:01 am eastern standard time, The Boston Globe endorsed Senator Ed Markey for reelection. Now that sentence alone should sound...rather mundane. Of course the Globe would endorse Senator Markey, he’s the incumbent, he has a history in the commonwealth, and his legislative history is nothing short of astounding, from crafting the Green New Deal to his clout as the chairman of energy in the house. Surely in any other election, this would be nothing special.

Yet, for Senator Markey, this is NOT like any other election. For the first time in modern Massachusetts political history, a sitting Senator is facing an insurgent primary. But this isn’t just some random upstart politician that Ed Markey is facing. No, the person aiming for the Senator seat bears the most famous last name in Massachusetts politics: Joe Kennedy the third. Kennedy, originally the representative of the 4th congressional district declared his candidacy in September of 2019, and has ran a campaign that has given Markey a run for his money. At the beginning of the race, Kennedy had the lead in polls, ranging from leads of +2 to +17, impressive to say the least. Yet, as we enter the final month of the race, Senator Markey has closed the gap in polling, with two polls showing him with a lead of +4 and +15 respectively. For many political observers, it is clear to diagnose this race as a tossup, no doubt about that, but the question becomes this; which is more appealing to the Massachusetts voter? Kennedy's legacy? Or Markey's legislation?


When it comes to political dynasties, the Kennedy's need no introduction. The pride of the bay state, Patrick Joseph Kennedy and his family changed the political landscape of Massachusetts by creating a legacy lasting for generations. From John F. Kennedy bringing new age liberalism to Massachusetts and the country, to Robert F. Kennedy's work in the Kennedy administration as Attorney General, to Ted Kennedy's legacy in the Senate, it is undeniable to that the Kennedy name is still alive and well in the Commonwealth and in the country.

When Joe Kennedy III was elected into congress in 2012, he embodied a new generation of the legacy that would have grown in time. Massachusetts was still feeling the loss of Ted Kennedy in 2009, and had replaced his predecessor, Republican Scott Brown with Elizabeth Warren the same year Kennedy III was elected. As such, this was the beginning of a new era for the Kennedys.

At first, Kennedy was a rather quiet member of congress during the Obama era, being a part of the science and technology committee and the committee of foreign affairs, voting in line with House Democrats on legislation and policy. It wouldn't be until 2017 and 2018 where Kennedy began to find his moments in the spotlight. In 2017, Kennedy became a vocal opponent towards House Republicans efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and in 2018, he was chosen to give a rebuttal towards President Trump's State of The Union Address, which was received positively amongst Democratic Voters. This is where Kennedy began to establish himself as a congressman and a politician, a rising star within the party with a legacy behind him.

For many older voters in Massachusetts, the Kennedy name is still magic, bringing back a golden age of liberal politics in their minds, but it isn't the only group Kennedy does quite well with. Voters of color, most noticeably African Americans, have shown more support for Kennedy, possibly due in part from a massive outreach from the campaign. Kennedy has hit Senator Markey on racial policy, noting that the Senator has not done enough for communities of color, possibly emulating the civil rights work that Robert F Kennedy did for the country.

Even recently, the topic of the Kennedy family has been brought up as the race dwindles to a close, as Senator Markey accused Kennedy's father and brother of funding negative ads against the Senator. In a statement on Monday the 17th, Kennedy leaned into his legacy even more by noting that his family earned their legacy, and that attacking them will get you nowhere.

Still despite the legend of legacy, Kennedy still faces a couple of bumps in the road. Despite saying over and over that it is time for a change in the Senate, he hasn't offered a structured reason of WHY Markey needs to be elected out and WHY change is needed. It does seem however, that his families legacy will be the ticket in order for him to win, thus explaining why he is starting to lean more into it as of late.


In 1976, Edward J. Markey was elected to the 7th congressional district of Massachusetts, after facing a 12 person primary and winning in a landslide victory against Republican Richard Daly. Since then, he has made the northeast suburbs of Boston his mothership of winning elections, claiming victory 19 times. In 2013, he was elected Senator. During his time in the halls of congress, he built an impressive resume of legislation and policy in congress.

Markey is seen by many as......well the Marquis of progressive policy. His most well known work is within the realm of Environment and Energy. As one of the first politicians to use the Second Life program to address the dangers of excess Carbon Dioxide, and a critic of the Tea Party's disregard of the issue, Markey's fight for climate has resonated with many left leaning voters, especially those in the 18-24 category. Probably his famous piece of climate legislation is introducing the "Green New Deal" with New York Congresswoman Ocasto-Cortez, a centerpiece for many Democrats ranging from progressive to even those who lean more towards the center.

Markey's impact through legislation also runs through the topic of transportation. Seeing it as a necessity for rural areas, including those in Massachusetts, Markey has been calling for several legislative changes, ranging from expansive railroad in western and south eastern Massachusetts, safety in automobiles along with Senator Blumenthal, and free public transport with congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

Thanks to this primary, Markey has been put into the spotlight and now has the chance to flex his legislative muscles and has been seen more popular than ever, but is it going to be enough?


So, with both candidates strengths being detailed, what is the verdict? As said above, it's a tossup. Kennedy is just starting to lean into his family's legacy and Markey is currently on a bit of a polling peak right now. The race keeps changing from day to day that it is hard to see if one candidate has a clear definitive lead over another, and with the final debate coming up tomorrow, anything can happen. So all I can recommend? Let's see how this race plays out.

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