Joe Kennedy Confirms He’ll Take on Sen. Ed Markey in 2020 Democratic Primary

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts confirmed on Saturday that he’ll run against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey in next year’s Democratic state primary.

The first question that comes to mind is why? The short answer, as Splinter’s Naomi LaChance pointed out earlier this week, is because he’s a Kennedy.

Markey, 73, has served in public office in Washington since the mid-1970s, first as a U.S. representative for Massachusetts’ 7th congressional district, and then as a U.S. senator beginning in 2013.


Earlier this year, he and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal resolution to address the threat of climate change by striving for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, among other goals.

“It’s a goal, a vision for what the country should try to accomplish with a 10-year mobilization knowing that even then, more work will have to be done,” Markey told Vox’s David Roberts last April while explaining the resolution.


Markey also has sponsored or co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation in the more than four decades that he’s worked in Congress. Protecting the environment and public health are two priority issues the senator has addressed in the past, according to his website. Among his legislative efforts is the 2008 Waxman-Markey climate bill, which passed the House but not the Senate, as Vox noted.

Ocasio-Cortez, predictably, is backing Markey in the upcoming primary challenge.

So is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In a statement published by Politico, DSCC spokesperson Stewart Boss said, “Senator Markey is an effective fighter for Massachusetts and a strong progressive leader in the caucus on issues ranging from tackling climate change to ending gun violence. The campaign’s broad and diverse coalition of supporters reflects his record of delivering for Massachusetts in the Senate, and we’re proud to support his re-election.”


Sen. Elizabeth Warren also endorsed Markey last February, and then reiterated her support last month in a video.

Kennedy, 38, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, appears to have a big early edge over Markey in polling. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll published earlier this month, before Kennedy’s official announcement, showed Kennedy ahead of Markey by 14 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, at 42% vs. 28%. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.


One poll respondent said she prefers Kennedy after watching him deliver the televised response to last year’s State of the Union by Donald Trump. Part of Kennedy’s speech was delivered in (badly enunciated) Spanish, which drew enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience.

In terms of fundraising, the Boston Globe, citing federal data, reported that Kennedy slightly edges out Markey so far, with $4.2 million of cash on hand compared to Markey’s $4.1 million.


Kennedy announced his bid on Saturday at a breakfast in East Boston, before embarking on a three-day, statewide tour, according to Politico.