Joe Kennedy, Ed Markey to Square Off in June Debate

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, left, and Sen. Ed Markey, right, square off in the first senate primary debate hosted by WGBH News on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 at the WGBH Studios in Boston. (Meredith Nierman/WGBH via AP, Pool)
Meredith Nierman/WGBH via AP, Pool

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) will face Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on June 1 in their second Senate primary debate, which was initially slated for March but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The debate, hosted by a group of local media outlets including MassLive, Western Mass News, and the Boston Globe, marks the second of at least four debates between the congressmen scheduled to occur before the high-profile September 1 primary, according to MassLive.

Kennedy, who is preceded by a prominent and extensive family history of political figures, formally announced his bid for Senate last September. Challenging Markey was an unsettling move within the Democrat Party, however, as it is unusual for a congressmember to challenge a sitting senator, specifically in a comfortably blue state like Massachusetts where both candidates tout similarly progressive views.

Several Democrats in Washington have expressed disapproval of Kennedy’s run, including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who discouraged “intraparty fighting,” and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who advised Kennedy “to wait,” according to a Politico report.

Massachusetts’ senior senator, Elizabeth Warren (D), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have also thrown support behind Markey, as well as the outspoken and far-left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), although fellow “Squad” member Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), a Bay Stater serving in the House with Kennedy, has declined to voice her opinion.

Ocasio-Cortez last September gave her raving endorsement of Markey, who stood by her side as cosponsor of the fanciful Green New Deal initiative.

“His leadership in authoring the Green New Deal along with me and carrying it in the United States Senate is emblematic of the kind of work that he does for working families across the country,” Ocasio-Cortez said, lauding him as one of the few who “took a chance” on her bold climate change plans, although the Senate blocked the Green New Deal in bipartisan manner in March 2019.

Despite the opposition in D.C., Kennedy has continuously overshadowed Markey in polls, demonstrating his frontrunner status early on with a massive 17-point lead in a Change Research poll at the start of his campaign; this lead has since narrowed, with RealClearPolitics’ most recent average polling him at nine points ahead of Markey.

Kennedy also outpaces Markey in fundraising, with the Federal Election Commission reporting him having $6.2 million in cash on hand compared to Markey’s $4.4 million as of the end of March.

The one-hour debate will be broadcast live, as well as livestreamed, on NBC 10 at 7 p.m. EST.

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