A legendary American political dynasty is at stake Tuesday with Joe Kennedy III, the grandnephew of assassinated president John F Kennedy, challenging a veteran progressive incumbent for his seat in the US Senate.
The contentious race, which pits two well-liked progressives with similar political positions against one another, is coming down to the wire in a busy Democratic primary in Massachusetts.
The 39-year-old Kennedy, grandson of slain attorney general Robert F Kennedy, is part of the family’s fourth generation to carry the political torch, entering the House of Representatives in 2013.
Voters in Massachusetts, he said as he made his closing argument to voters late Monday, “know what is at stake, and they know what we can do, and what is the only thing that’s left is whether we meet this moment.”
At 74, his rival Ed Markey is a generation apart, a progressive political workhorse who spent 37 years in the House before rising to the Senate in 2013.
“I’m treating tomorrow like it’s Game 7 of the World Series,” Markey told reporters Monday during 11th-hour campaigning in Brookline, the Boston suburb where JFK was born 103 years ago.
“There’s nothing guaranteed.”
For the Kennedy clan, much is on the line. For all but two years since 1947 — nearly a third of the history of the United States—- a Kennedy has served in elective office. They are the quintessential American dynasty, the closest thing the country has to royalty.
Like his presidential great-uncle, who once served in the Senate, the lanky, red-haired Kennedy is running on the promise of a new generation. He has received the coveted and rare endorsement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In 2018 she appointed Kennedy to deliver the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech.
Markey, who has framed his candidacy on an anti-establishment platform, has powerful supporters too.
They include Senator Elizabeth Warren and rising star progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with whom Markey co-authored the Green New Deal on tackling climate change.
“When it comes to progressive leadership, it’s not your age that counts, it’s the age of your ideas. And Ed Markey is the leader that we need,” the 30-year-old lawmaker known as AOC said in an ad for Markey.
No Kennedy has lost an election in Massachusetts, however, and Joe III has sought to portray himself as more committed to the role.
“The biggest difference between myself and the senator is how we define the job,” Kennedy told the Boston Globe.
“It’s being more engaged, it’s giving your heart and soul to the seat.”
With the coronavirus pandemic prompting record numbers of mail-in ballots, Massachusetts officials warn that the race might not be called until Wednesday.