Sparks Fly At Joe Kennedy III & Edward Markey’s Primary Debate

ed markey joe kennedy debate

Getty Sen. Ed Markey (left) and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (right).

The Democratic primary for the Massachusett‘s senate seat is heating up as both Democratic challengers went toe-to-toe on a televised debate Tuesday night on August 11.

Massachusett’s 4th District Rep. Joe Kennedy III, the heir of one of the country’s most famous political dynasties and the spitting image (albeit with red hair) of his iconic grandfather, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy took on Ed Markey, who has spent the past seven years as a U.S. senator, represented Massachusett’s 7th district as a congressman for 37 years and has racked up endorsements from the likes of Gloria Steinem, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren.

Both went after each other, politically and sometimes personally, in one of the race’s most heated debates. Here’s a quick review of what happened Tuesday night:


1. Kennedy Jabbed Hard At Markey & Pushed A Message Of Progress

One of the big issues which came up was surrounding the case of Danroy “DJ” Henry, a young Massachusetts Black man killed by police in 2010. Henry’s father reached out to Markey and has since said that he was disappointed that Markey’s efforts did very little to help the family get justice.

In the debate, Kennedy attacked Markey on the issue.

A mom and dad came to you to ask for justice for their murdered son. They came to you as a United States senator. As someone in a position of power who they thought would help them, rectify what happened to their slain young boy. And when they came to you to ask for help, you did nothing. The only thing you did – a month letter – was to sign onto a letter that my office put together. I have stood by that family through thick and thin, year after year, pushing on the Department of Justice, doing everything we possibly can and (I) continue to this day. So it’s great you talk about the things you might have done or the bill you might have passed. But while you’re trying to fight for that seat you had safe … you were opposing the integration of the Boston Public Schools.

Markey responded by saying that the Henry family deserved justice and said that he had written to then-Attorney General Eric Holder multiple times asking the DOJ to open a case.

Kennedy also criticized Markey for missing several votes on the Senate floor this year, saying, “He’s missed over 50% of the votes during this critical time of COVID-19,” to which Markey contended that their voting record was fairly similar.

Furthermore, Kennedy implied that Markey was too slow to embrace the progressive values he has recently enthusiastically embraced.

“Senator, it took you 40 years in office to show leadership on Medicare For All – 40 – so let’s get that record straight first,” Kennedy said when Markey tried to tout his support for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Kennedy also admonished Markey on never endorsing Bernie Sanders and implied that he was attempting to attach himself to an existing movement started by younger representatives like AOC for political capital.

Markey responded by asking Kennedy whether his family was funding negative ads against him.


2. Markey Jabbed Back At Kennedy & Touted His Record On Being Progressive

Markey’s opening statement painted Kennedy as a chronic flip-flopper on important issues. “When he uses the word change, he means something different. He’s changed his position on Medicare For All, he’s changed his position on PROMESA which is hollowing out Puerto Rico, he has changed his position on the issue of super PACs, he’s changed his position on Alpha Kappa … one month before the campaign,” he said.

Kennedy a former member of Stanford University’s Kappa Alpha fraternity, denounced it in June after a photo circulated showing three fraternity members posing with guns in front of a bullet-riddled memorial to 1955 lynching victim Emmett Till and the fraternity’s even older legacy of racism, dating back to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Markey went after Kennedy’s family and specifically, his brother and father, Joe Kennedy II; Markey accused Kennedy III of using his father – who is also a former congressman – to go after Markey’s voting records in political-action-committee-funded negative ads.

Right now, there is a super PAC run by the congressman’s twin brother that are running negative ads against me. On television, all day long, every single day. And there are reports that his father … may be providing funding for that super PAC. And again, that funding could be coming from some of the fossil fuel money that his father raises … because he is using that money right now to attack me. My question is this, is your father funding that super PAC that is attacking me right now?

Kennedy responded by saying his family sold all of its fossil fuel stocks. And on whether his family was behind the super PAC funding negative ads, Kennedy told Markey that he had, “No clue, no idea.”

Supporters of Markey in Twitterverse have since posted videos with the #TellYaFatha.


3. The Democratic Primary Is Heating Up

From nearly all the experts, all signs point to this race being a tight one. According to a July Associated Press story, Markey had roughly $4.8 million in his campaign account and Kennedy announced that he had about $4.7 million in his war chest, making the two almost dead even on fundraising.

An earlier Suffolk University and Boston Globe poll conducted in February found that more than one-third of voters (35%) were undecided, NBC-Boston reported, which might explain how the debates have become so contentious.

The Boston Herald reported that the race is essentially a dead heat, with both sides feeling they scored political points during the debate.

The primary vote takes place on September 1 and the general election will take place on November 3.

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