Kennedy bid is not what Dems need right now

Focus should be on races that could shift Senate control

CONGRESSMAN JOE KENNEDY recently formally announced his candidacy for the US Senate, challenging Senator Ed Markey’s bid for reelection. When speculation about the challenge came out a few weeks ago, I was confused. And for a while, a general sense of agitation left me unable to pinpoint exactly what about Kennedy’s decision didn’t sit well with me.

Then I saw Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath post a tweet reporting that, according to the most recent AARP report, she was polling at 46 percent to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s 47 percent. McGrath asked for donations to help her campaign close that 1 percent gap. In that moment, I realized why I was uneasy about Kennedy’s announcement.

The New York Times has already called it “the country’s most high-profile Senate primary.” And in elections, the words “high-profile” are usually synonymous with “expensive.” There is simply too much at stake this election cycle to justify Democratic dollars going into this race. Sara Gideon in Maine. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. Amy McGrath in Kentucky. J.D. Scholten in Iowa. MJ Hegar in Texas. Mark Kelly in Arizona. Jon Ossoff in Georgia. The list goes on. There are so many candidates who need all the help they can get, and the people of Massachusetts with the ability to pitch in should be given that opportunity. In fact, we should feel obligated.

What’s at stake with who controls the Senate? Everything. The ability to pass aggressive legislation to address the climate crisis. The ability to pass common-sense gun laws that vast majorities of Americans support. Health care for people who need it (everyone). Affordable drugs so that diabetics don’t have to choose between insulin and paying the rent. Judges who will defend democracy from authoritarianism.

As a constituent of both Congressman Kennedy and Senator Markey, I believe in the necessity of primaries to the democratic process and I believe that any candidate should be able to run if they so choose. I only wish to express my disappointment at Congressman Kennedy’s decision and plead with  my fellow Massachusetts residents to put their money, their volunteer time, and their sense of urgency where they’re needed most.

I’ve worked with both Kennedy and Markey on gun violence prevention legislation. I also worked as an  intern in Markey’s office this summer. I am familiar with their policy stances, and admire them both immensely. But there is simply not enough separation between their policy stances to warrant a primary challenge this election cycle.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for younger candidates throwing their hats in the primary ring—I hope to run for office soon after I’m eligible—but there is simply not enough daylight between  Kennedy and Markey to justify this fight, especially given the stakes. Where Kennedy stands on gun reform, Markey’s there, too. Where Markey stands on reproductive justice, Kennedy stands with him. And on environmental justice, where Kennedy has backed the Green New Deal, Markey has sponsored the legislation in the Senate. The Boston Globe noted Kennedy’s announcement that “[he] and Markey are separated more by age than ideology.” The point of running for political office or for a specific seat is mostly to provide a vision and policy agenda that differs from the agenda held by the current occupant — vision to fill a hole the community would benefit from having filled.

This hole does not exist.

The 2020 elections are a perfect chance for us to lead like we have done many times before and lend our democratic fervor to the efforts being made in other states. And, to put it bluntly, to act without this in mind is symbolic of wealthy suburban privilege. Many of the residents of Massachusetts are fortunate that we have a lot to give. And we should give it. The stakes of 2020 are incredibly high, and we should not waste this chance to make the change where it is needed. And that’s not here.

Meet the Author

Madeline Ranalli

First-year student, Harvard University
I know that my thoughts will not magically convince Kennedy to end his campaign or convince people not to vote for him. What I do hope my fellow Massachusetts Democrats will remember is that this election should not be about us. I hope to motivate you to give something, whether that’s a donation or an hour of phone bank volunteering, to a candidate like Gideon, Shaheen, McGrath, or Scholten. So let’s vote here in Massachusetts, but let’s also use our passion and energy to inject some hope into this entire country’s electoral outcome.

Madeline Ranalli is a resident of Newton and is currently a first-year student at Harvard University. She is interested in public policy and hopes to run for political office. Instagram/Twitter: @madelineranalli