CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (CN) — As Massachusetts voters go to the polls in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary, there’s a sense that they might do something that was once unthinkable: reject a Kennedy.
Congressman Joe Kennedy III, a grandson of Robert Kennedy, is vying for the Senate seat once held by his grand-uncles John and Ted. He’s trying to unseat Ed Markey, a longtime veteran of the House who won a 2013 special election to replace Senator John Kerry when he became secretary of state.
But many voters say the Camelot era is over.
“We don’t need any more Kennedys,” said Dan Thomas, one of many voters in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts, who told Courthouse News that they’re choosing Markey, best known as the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal along with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“There’s not much point in bringing in a less experienced person just because his name is Kennedy,” said Paul Stansifer, who voted just steps from the Harvard campus where Joe Kennedy and seven of his famous relatives graduated.
“I don’t like political dynasties,” added Graham Noblit.
Although Kennedy had a 17-point lead in an early poll around the time he announced his bid, he was trailing by 12 points in the latest survey conducted by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion. Another poll released last week showed Markey with an 8-point lead.
“Markey’s not a great senator, but he’s a known quantity,” said Rosie Sarafoudi, who is worried that Kennedy would use the Senate seat merely as a stepping-stone to the presidency “like his uncle.”
A redheaded 39-year-old, Kennedy billed himself early on in the campaign as representing a generational change from the 74-year-old Markey — a move reminiscent of President Kennedy’s promise in his nomination speech of “a new generation of leadership.”
But it turned out that many younger voters feel more in tune with Markey and his focus on progressive issues such as climate change.
“The Green New Deal is very important to me,” said Jessica Bryant, a younger voter who supports Markey.
Although a MassINC poll from October 2019 showed that 70% of voters under age 30 had no opinion or had never heard of Markey, a recent UMass Amherst poll showed Markey leading among young people by an astonishing 51 points. And young people have been active in supporting Markey on social media.
Ironically, the argument for generational change seems to work best with an older generation. Anne Quirk, who is on the Democratic Committee in Belmont, a suburb of Boston, said she’s voting for Kennedy because Markey would be 80 at the end of his term and she’s concerned about the “gerontocracy” in Congress. But she added, “I suspect my children are all voting for Markey.”
Sally Johnson said her 89-year-old mother voted for Kennedy “because she wants to bring back Camelot and the 1960s.” Johnson chose Markey.
Markey “has voted in favor of the younger generation all his life,” Johnson explained.
Fred Dow said he likes Markey because “he’s an elder statesman — there’s a value to time and maturity.”
Many voters said they saw no reason to make a change. “What’s the point of challenging a progressive?” asked Thomas, who said Kennedy offered nothing new or different and simply represented “120 years of privilege.”
“Do we need a change? My answer is a decisive no,” added Bruce Leslie-Pritchard.
Because Kennedy and Markey have similar stands on the issues, Leslie-Pritchard compared the race to Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley’s 2018 primary challenge to 10-term incumbent Mike Capuano.