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U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy opens campaign office in Roxbury

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy opens campaign office in Roxbury
U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III addresses supporters as Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins looks on. BANNER PHOTO

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, running for the Senate seat currently occupied by Ed Markey, opened a campaign office on Dudley Street Saturday, Jan 18.

“From the beginning of this campaign, our promise has been that we are going to show up,” Kennedy said to an audience of political activists and elected officials who assembled in the storefront office near the intersection with Warren Street. “We’re going to show up over and over again until you are sick of seeing us and hearing from our team.”

Kennedy has represented the 4th Congressional District since Barney Frank vacated the seat in 2013, the same year Markey was voted into the Senate after representing the 5th Congressional District for nearly 40 years.

The opening of his campaign office comes as Democrats gear up for the February and March ward committee caucuses, during which delegates to the state convention are elected. As supporter Ramon Soto told Kennedy supporters Saturday, the campaign will be competing with Markey for the party nomination during the May 30 convention. Campaigns typically pack ward caucuses to make sure they elect enough delegates to secure the 15% of the vote necessary to appear on the Democratic primary ballot.

“Every one of you will get followed up with by someone on the team,” Soto told the gathering.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy greets supporters during his office opening.
Banner photo

While Markey has racked up endorsements from a considerable portion of the Democratic party apparatus, including 116 legislators, labor unions and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Kennedy displayed a slice of Boston-area support during his Roxbury office opening. Present were Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, state Sen. Joseph Boncore, state Rep. Jon Santiago and City Councilors Kim Janey and Matt O’Malley. Kennedy also last week picked up an endorsement from U.S. Rep. and veteran civil rights activist John Lewis of Georgia.

Kennedy entered what was then a four-way race in August and reports $5.5 million in his campaign war chest, significantly more than the $4.4 million Markey has. Kennedy’s entrance shook up the field. In October, Democratic businessman Steve Pemberton dropped out of the race. Last week, labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan dropped out, leaving Kennedy and Markey in a two-way battle.

While Markey is engrossed in the impeachment proceedings in the nation’s capital, Kennedy has maintained a brisk pace on the campaign trail, holding a town hall meeting on Sunday in Springfield, where he touted endorsements from six city councilors. The stop was one of 14 town hall meetings Kennedy has planned for January.

Much like the 2018 race for the 7th Congressional District between Ayanna Pressley and incumbent Michael Capuano, Kennedy and Markey differ more in style than in substance. Kennedy would have difficulty running to the left of Markey, who co-authored the Green New Deal with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and received endorsements from her and from the group Massachusetts Peace Action.

Santiago, who mounted a successful challenge to longstanding state Rep. Byron Rushing in 2018, told supporters the current political climate calls for a change in leadership.

“With all respect to Ed Markey, this is a new era,” he said. “It’s going to require new energy and new ideas.”

In his address to the Roxbury gathering, Kennedy said the urgency of the current political moment prompted him to enter the race.

“At a time when people doubt government — what our intent is and what the point can be — it’s about making sure that you know there’s someone who’s going to be there and fight for you day in and day out,” he said. “At this time, when there’s such urgency, when so many of the people and the causes we care about are on the line, it’s a baseline responsibility that you can expect.”

Key Boston-area campaign staff and volunteers for Kennedy include former aide to Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer Jacquetta Van Zandt, communications executive Colette Phillips, schoolteacher and former District 9 City Council candidate Brandon Bowser and former city worker and District 5 Council candidate Alkia Powell. Others in attendance at the Saturday office opening event included political activists Shirley Shillingford and Anthony Brewer.

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