Image Courtesy of the Daily Hampshire Gazette
By Chris Carey
Massachusetts saw a pair of high-profile Democratic primaries on Tuesday, September 1, as Junior Senator Ed Markey and Representative Richard Neal (MA-01) successfully defended their seats from younger challengers.
Representative Joe Kennedy III, great-nephew of President John Kennedy, announced his candidacy for the US Senate on September 21 of 2019 with the intention of taking down long-time Congressman Markey.
The race received significant national media attention early on and through the entirety of the contest due to Markey’s status as a co-author and sponsor of the Green New Deal, as well as Rep. Kennedy’s family history, as until this election cycle, a Kennedy had never lost a race in Massachusetts.
Likewise, Congressman Richard Neal, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, repelled Alex Morse, mayor of the mid-sized city of Holyoke, who was backed by Rep.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s super PAC and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, among others.
Neal boasted the firm support of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, many local unions, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, and the late Congressman John Lewis.
Much like the Kennedy-Markey race, this congressional primary pitted the old- and the new-age Democratic Party against each other. Neal, an incumbent who has served since 1989, and Markey, who has served in Congress since 1976, were painted as out of touch by their primary challengers.
Morse, backed by the Working Families Party and the Justice Democrats, argued that Neal’s corporate ties and alleged absence in the home district were cause to usher in a new generation of leadership.
“He is the No. 1 recipient of corporate money in Congress. … Do we want a member of Congress that is bought and paid for (by) big pharma … or the insurance industry?” Morse questioned.
Joe Kennedy, on the other hand, was often criticized for his inability to cite why precisely he was running for the seat that two of his great uncles had previously held.
When pressed for comment, Kennedy responded, “I got in this race because we have major challenges we have to confront, and the current occupant of this seat is not doing all that he can to actually address it.”
The two incumbents had claims of their own to defend their seats; Congressman Neal pointed to his work in writing the C.A.R.E.S. Act.
“I’m proud of the fact that I wrote the CARES Act. The CARES Act provided loans for 10,400 small businesses … to point out in the CARES Act there was $400 million for our hospitals,” Neal stated.
Markey, on the other hand, repeatedly pointed to his progressive policy agenda, his work on the Green New Deal, and his humble small-town roots.
With September 1 fast approaching, pundits and political junkies looked on, entirely unsure what a COVID-19 election would bring for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its First Congressional District. The people resoundingly made their minds known. Neal won his race by nearly 20 percentage points, even winning Morse’s home town of Holyoke. Markey put away approximately 54% of the vote.