The 2020 Democratic primary just got another high-profile race to watch, as Rep. Joe Kennedy III officially intends to challenge incumbent Senator Ed Markey for his seat. The Boston Globe reports that Kennedy will formally announce his primary bid Saturday at a breakfast with community leaders in East Boston before campaigning around the state, and that the congressman told Markey of his plans on Wednesday. “Joe plans to make a campaign announcement this Saturday in East Boston. He looks forward to speaking with folks then,” spokeswoman Emily Kaufman told the Globe .
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Kennedy, who holds the distinction of being the last member of the Kennedy dynasty serving in Washington, has been mulling a potential run for a little while now, sharing his consideration in an August Facebook post but stressing that he'd yet to make a decision. “I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn,” Kennedy wrote on Facebook, “but with due respect—I’m not sure this is a moment for waiting.” The 38-year-old's race against the 73-year-old Markey, with whom he's largely aligned ideologically, is shaping up to be a referendum on generational change, even as the Kennedy heir fights to become his family's fourth U.S. Senator. (Kennedy's great-uncles John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy previously held the seat he's now running for, while grandfather Robert F. Kennedy served as a senator for New York.) And there are strong signs that he could be successful: An early Suffolk University/ Boston Globe survey found Kennedy beat Markey in a head-to-head matchup with 42% of the vote, compared with 28% for Markey. “If Joe Kennedy got into the Senate race, he would immediately become the front-runner,” Mary Anne Marsh , a political strategist at Dewey Square Group in Boston, told Politico in August.
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The run-up to Kennedy's announcement has been marked by a swell of support for Markey, though, as lawmakers came out with early endorsements meant to undercut Kennedy's primary bid. Most notably, the incumbent senator earned the “[enthusiastic] support” of primary challenger success story Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , who dealt a blow to Kennedy's generational change argument by endorsing her Green New Deal co-sponsor earlier in September. The 29-year-old progressive icon hailed Markey in a video as “one of the strongest progressives that we have in the United States Senate“—even as she endorses primary challengers in other races. “In a time right now, when we have to have conversations not just about holding this administration accountable but changing the Democratic Party for the future, Ed Markey has a very critical role in making sure that climate change, as well as a bevy of other issues—health care and beyond—are critical core issues in how we fight for working people and working families in the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
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Markey has also shored up endorsements from Sen. Elizabeth Warren —who was once Kennedy's professor at Harvard University—as well as Senate leaders, more than a hundred Massachusetts lawmakers, and the Senate Democrats' campaign committee . According to the Globe , high-level political leaders have specifically urged Kennedy not to run, saying that his primary challenge would be an expensive distraction from the presidential race. “I don’t understand how anyone wants to run against him—I mean he is the progressive leader on climate in the United States Congress,” Rep. Ro Khanna told Politico about Markey. “The progressive base is 100% for Markey—it’s 110% for Markey.”
Advertisement But though many are lining up behind Markey, it's also clear that his charismatic challenger will find support for his nascent campaign. Politico notes that a number of House lawmakers are “quietly rooting for [Kennedy]” and his refusal to wait his turn for a Senate seat, and the Massachusetts representative has been a dogged campaigner and fundraiser for Democrats around the country, garnering him nationwide political allies. “His role on the national stage would be helpful even for the people of West Virginia because he’s going to be in our corner on key issues,” Talley Sergent , a former House candidate who Kennedy campaigned for in West Virginia, told the Globe . “Our country and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be better for it.”
For Kennedy, these signs of support—not to mention the strength of his family name—are seemingly enough to warrant shirking the Democratic establishment and key progressives like AOC. And while the prospect of an expensive, bitter fight between ideological allies may be the last thing many Democrats want going into 2020, Kennedy is saying: Bring it on. “I don’t see how an active, engaged race that enables an electorate across the state to make an informed decision about who’s going to represent them in the United States Senate for the next six years is a bad thing,” Kennedy told reporters. “That’s exactly what the process was designed to do.”.