Sen. Ed Markey fended off a bitter primary challenge Rep. Joe Kennedy III on Tuesday in a hotly contested Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary.
“Tonight is more than just a celebration of a movement. It is a real reaffirmation of the need to have a movement, a progressive movement of young people demanding radical change, demanding justice,” Markey said at a victory celebration in his hometown of Malden, Mass.
“This is a matter of life and death. The very future of our civilization depends on it,” Markey continued. “Every other problem is linked to it. No solution to any challenge will be successful unless we address it. There will be no peace, no justice, and no prosperity unless we stop the march to climate destruction. We must pass a Green New Deal.”
Markey also stressed that “priority number one” is removing Republican President Donald Trump from the White House.
“Priority number one is to move Donald Trump from the White House,” Markey said. “He is the most corrupt, most racist, most incompetent president in American history. We must banish his agenda of division and destruction to the history books.”
Markey established himself as a progressive and aligned with the liberal wing of the party. He co-authored with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on the Green New Deal, a manifesto to combat climate change and overhaul the economy. This helped Markey win the freshman progressive endorsement in this primary along with fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“Ed Markey wasn’t afraid. He offered his expertise & partnership. He wasn’t scared of big policy & didn’t use kid gloves. It‘s great to watch him overcome the odds and win tonight,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday night.
On a personal note, when I first got to Congress the reception I got in many spaces was v chilly.
Ed Markey wasn’t afraid. He offered his expertise & partnership. He wasn’t scared of big policy & didn’t use kid gloves.
It‘s great to watch him overcome the odds and win tonight. https://t.co/lFjlu4AUiQ
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 2, 2020
Kennedy called Markey to concede before The Associated Press declared a winner. With about 500,000 votes tallied late Tuesday night, Markey had 54 percent of the vote to Kennedy’s 46 percent.
During his concession speech, the Congressman said he would “pledge my support to him and his campaign in the months ahead.”
”No matter the results tonight, I would do this again with all of you in a heartbeat,” Kennedy told his supporters. “We may have lost the final vote count tonight but we built a coalition that will endure. We built a campaign for the people that our politics often locks out and leaves behind.”
Kennedy started out with a double-digit lead in the polls when he announced last year he was challenging Markey. However, his lead began to evaporate in the final month of the campaign, as mail-in voting began. RealClearPolitics polling average showed Markey with an 11.2-point lead.
In late August, Kennedy landed a major endorsement when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) formally backed his candidacy. The endorsement from the House Speaker came as she was angered that Markey’s campaign had crossed a hallowed line by running a negative campaign against the Kennedy dynasty.
“I wasn’t too happy with some of the assault that I saw made on the Kennedy family,” Pelosi told The Washington Post. “And I thought, Joe didn’t ask me to endorse him, but I felt an imperative to do so.”
The race became one of the most expensive Democratic primary this cycle. According to the campaigns’ pre-primary Federal Election Commission filings, Markey spent $10.3 million to fend off his challenger while Kennedy spent $11.5 million.
Markey’s primary win paves the way for his expected reelection in November against Republican Kevin O’Connor.
The election marks the first time a member of the Kennedy political dynasty has lost a statewide election in Massachusetts.