Could fossil fuel investments hinder Kennedy campaign?

Generational change not only factor in race

As Representative Joe Kennedy III officially announces his decision to challenge Senator Ed Markey, voters are wondering— what distinguishes the two men, both viewed as progressive Democrats?

The obvious one is age. But New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has complicated the argument that a vote for Kennedy is a vote for a new generation. The 29-year-old hailed the 73-year-old Markey as “one of the strongest progressives that we have in the US Senate,” lauding him on their shared project, the Green New Deal, health care, and labor.

Markey was first elected to the Senate in 2013 after more than three decades in the House. He was first elected in 1976, four years before Kennedy was born.

But beyond the difference in age, there are other more substantive contrasts.

Kennedy sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and backs the Green New Deal, but he’s not squeaky clean, according to climate activists. Earlier this week, government accountability watchdog Sludge followed fossil fuel money right to Kennedy’s wallet.

“As he considers whether to enter the race, Kennedy owns as much as $1.75 million worth of stock in the fossil fuel industry, including oil and gas companies that see Markey’s Green New Deal as an existential threat, according to a Sludge review of financial disclosure documents,” wrote reporter Donald Shaw.

In December 2018, Kennedy’s press secretary told Sludge that Kennedy’s family investments play no role in his decision-making. But those holdings in Chevron, ExxonMobil, oil service giant Schlumberger, and coal burning utility company NextEra Energy add fuel to questions about whether Kennedy can match Markey’s progressive bonafides. Chevron paid a super PAC that ran attack ads against candidates that supported the Green New Deal in the last election cycle.

Would Kennedy divest if this becomes a sticking point as he tries to win over Markey faithful?

Kennedy’s second major difference from Markey is over how environmental protections can be passed in a Republican-held Senate. Kennedy wants to abolish the filibuster (just like Sen. Elizabeth Warren). Markey wants to restore the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. But to pass bills as politicized as the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, a simple majority would make things much easier than a required 60-person vote.

Another difference between the two is where they come from. Markey was raised as the son of a milkman in Malden. Kennedy’s part of a Massachusetts political dynasty that goes back generations. Markey may seek to highlight his rival’s privilege in the coming months.

But Kennedy is ready for a fight. The heir to the Kennedy political dynasty has $4.2 million in his campaign account, compared to Markey’s $4 million. Last Thursday, he enlisted Rich Thurma to be part of his team again. Thurma is a political operative who served in Kennedy’s scheduling department in 2012 before jumping ship to be head of that department for Markey a year later.

The numbers are in Kennedy’s favor. According to Politico, early polling shows Kennedy with a 14-point lead over Markey in a head-to-head race, and a 9-point lead in a four-way race against Markey with businessman Steve Pemberton and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan.

Meanwhile, Kennedy is recruiting staff from a successful challenger to an incumbent–Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. He recently brought on Tracey Lewis, a longtime adviser to Pressley, to his campaign. Pressley has not made an endorsement.

Markey’s main defense has been stacking up endorsements like a barrier, beginning with Warren, the majority of the state’s Democratic delegation, and the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. Warren, who chose Kennedy to introduce her at her campaign launch for president back in February doesn’t have a bad word to say about either her Senate colleague or former Harvard student, Kennedy, but cast her lot for Markey in August, calling him a “true progressive” and noting his work on Medicare for All, climate change, and gun violence.

Kennedy’s decision was first reported by The Boston Globe. He will formally announce his candidacy on Saturday morning at an East Boston service agency breakfast, and will then begin campaigning across the state. Kennedy met with Markey on Wednesday to inform him of his decision.

SARAH BETANCOURT


BEACON HILL

Taking its cue from the Alabama GOP, the Massachusetts Republican Party approves a resolution condemning US Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for anti-Semitism and other alleged offenses. Gov. Charlie Baker was not consulted on the move. (CommonWealth)

A trove of internal emails shows Baker administration officials were focused on shortening wait times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles during the time when the agency’s handling of out-of-state driver infractions was in disarray — problems spotlighted by the death of seven motorcyclists allegedly caused by a Massachusetts truck driver whose license should have been suspended. (Boston Globe)

Trying to add some her to history, the House passes legislation creating a statewide women’s rights trail. (CommonWealth)

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who has been busy moving political friends into plum jobs, deals with a couple miffed members of the Governor’s Council. (State House News)

Relatives of victims of distracted driving met with Senate President Karen Spilka to press her to pass pending legislation banning hand-held use of cellphones, a bill that has been held up over concerns about racial profiling in police stops. (Boston Herald)

At a briefing for state lawmakers interested in the Safe Communities Act, doctors say the federal immigration crackdown is deterring immigrants from seeking health care. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial urges spending a state budget surplus on education, infrastructure, and raising the tax deduction for children or caring for elderly family members.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

An alleged mistake by a planning board in Stoughton has left the town with a crater. (Brockton Enterprise) 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi names US Rep. Seth Moulton to a key House committee. (Daily Item)

ELECTIONS

Boston City Council candidate Alejandra St. Guillen has spent more than $15,000 of the $141,000 in campaign funds she has raised on the political marketing firm owned by her wife that is handling communications for her run, a legal practice that some nonetheless say raises questions. (Boston Herald)

A day after victory over incumbent (and embattled) Jasiel Correia II in Tuesday’s preliminary election for mayor, Fall River School Committee member Paul Coogan isn’t resting on his laurels and said he remains focused on the task at hand heading into the general election. (Herald News) 

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

When it comes to Antonio Brown, for Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots, it’s all about winning, doing what’s right be damned, says Joan Vennochi. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

More than 60 female faculty members at MIT confronted President L. Rafael Reif in a tense meeting in the wake of the scandal involving the university’s acceptance of donations from disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. (Boston Globe)

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce urges the city’s school system to take bus operations in house, but Superintendent Maureen Binienda is opposed. (Telegram & Gazette)

City Councilor Michelle Wu got a first-hand taste of the morass of the Boston Public Schools assignment system after she got a call saying there was a pre-kindergarten slot for her four-year-son at a Roslindale school only to arrive with him and be told he’s not on their registration list. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Manchester-by-the-Sea resident who works in the Cape Ann area has been infected with eastern equine encephalitis. (Gloucester Daily News)

Suicide hotline calls on Cape Cod are going unanswered. A representative from Barnstable County Department of Human Services says they’re not aware of problems reaching the Samaritans suicide prevention line but would look into the situation. (Cape Cod Times) 

State leaders and Boston officials say they’re considering new regulations on e-cigarettes in the wake of serious health problems associated with vaping. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

Patrick Gabridge is the artist-in-residence at Mount Auburn Cemetery, which means he spends much of his time conducting research on the people buried there to incorporate into his plays. (WBUR)

TRANSPORTATION 

New Massport CEO Lisa Wieland says she is committed to Worcester Airport. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

DigBoston editor Jason Pramas argues that the climate movement needs to shift its strategies to get to its goals.

Heavy hydrogen, which is found in seawater, is the fuel for Martin Greenwald’s experiments with fusion, which theoretically could provide electricity without emitting carbon. (WBUR)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Randolph mother says her 12-year-old daughter was beaten by more than a dozen middle-schoolers — and it was captured on video. (Patriot Ledger)

Of the 34 people arrested in Operation Clean Sweep, eight were nabbed on drug possession charges, and nine were picked up for drug dealing that allegedly occurred around the time of the raids. (WBUR)

While a nurse at the Bedford Veterans Affairs hospital, Kathleen Noftle allegedly siphoned off pain medicine from a dying patient, which may have caused suffering in his last days. (Lowell Sun)

MEDIA

Ken Bader, a veteran Boston public radio producer, who exuded humanity and warmth, died at age 70.

Pants on Fire? Northeastern professor Dan Kennedy thinks the media is holding Democrats to a much higher standard in fact checking than Trump. (Media Nation)