By Jim Ellis
Sept. 1, 2020 — A major political dynasty will end this evening. Today is Primary Day in Massachusetts and the long-awaited Democratic intra-party battle between two icons of Bay State politics, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) will be decided.
Sen. Markey was first elected to the state legislature in 1972 and has served in elective office consecutively ever since. He spent four years in the state House of Representatives, 36 years in the US House, and was elected in a special US Senate contest in 2013 to replace then-Sen. John Kerry (D) who had resigned to become US Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Markey was re-elected to a full term in 2014.
Rep. Kennedy is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, and thereby related to President John F. Kennedy, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He is the latest member of the famed Kennedy political dynasty. Joe Kennedy III was elected to the House in 2012, replacing retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton) in the district that contains the cities of Newton and Brookline before moving south to annex Taunton and Fall River. Should he lose tonight, he will be the first Kennedy not to win a Massachusetts campaign.
The race appeared close from the outset, but Sen. Markey appears to be pulling away in both campaign funds ($11.8 million raised through the pre-primary filing period on Aug. 12 to $8.8 million) and polling. Both see significant expenditure organizations conducting independent operations to support their Senate bids.
Since the end of July, Sen. Markey has pulled away. He has led in seven consecutive polls by an average of 8.7 percentage points after trailing in the early stages of the race. The latest poll, from Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) gives Sen. Markey a 56-44 percent lead when all respondents were prodded to make a choice. Interestingly, the last poll to find Rep. Kennedy leading also came from Emerson College during the early part of May. Those results show just how much the race has changed. Emerson previously projected Rep. Kennedy to a 58-42 percent advantage.
The Senate race is not the only major campaign on the Massachusetts ballot, however. House Ways & Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-Springfield) is striving to avoid becoming the ninth US House incumbent to be denied re-nomination in 2020. He faces a spirited challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who is hitting Rep. Neal from his left and criticizing him for being part of the “status quo.” Like the other Democratic upset winners this year, he Justice Democrats PAC has endorsed Morse, but their spending here appears less than the other campaigns in which they became involved.