BOSTON — Rep. Joe Kennedy is making his final pitches to Democratic voters to unseat Sen. Ed Markey in a tightening race as the primary draws closer.

Kennedy, 39, of Newton, is the son of former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy II and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. He acknowledges that he and his Democratic rival share similar views on politics and public policy, but says Markey hasn’t been attentive to his constituents and argues that he would do a better job.

“I respect Sen. Markey. I’ve known him my entire life, and I think he’s a decent man. But I believe we deserve more out of our senator,” Kennedy said during a recent video meeting with the North of Boston Media Group’s editorial board. “That’s why I’m running.”

Kennedy, who has served four terms in Congress representing the 4th District, has faulted the former congressman’s past votes in support of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, the Iraq War, and the 1994 crime bill, which many Democrats have since criticized for contributing to mass incarceration.

Markey, 74, a Malden Democrat, says his long record of accomplishments gives him an advantage over his younger challenger and is why voters should send him back to Washington for another six years.

“I have more than 500 laws on the books and a record of delivering for the people of Massachusetts,” Markey said during a recent interview with the editorial board. “My opponent has been in Congress almost a decade, but really doesn’t have a record.”

Markey was first elected to the Senate in 2013 after winning John Kerry’s former seat. A former congressman, he has not had a primary challenger in two decades.

On the campaign trail, Markey has cited his Green New Deal plan to address climate change and support for Medicare-for-All proposals.

The race has tested allegiances among the Democratic Party’s ranks locally and nationally.

Markey has touted endorsements from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Cambridge, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, both darlings among progressives.

Markey also has the backing of more than 100 Democratic state lawmakers — including Sens. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and Reps. Linda Campbell, D-Methuen and Paul Tucker, D-Salem — and two dozen mayors such as Dan Rivera in Lawrence and Jim Fiorentini of Haverhill.

Meanwhile, Kennedy has touted his endorsements from organized labor including the Massachusetts Building Trades Council and Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. Many union leaders who support Kennedy cite the family legacy.

He’s also picked up endorsements from Democratic mayors in the North of Boston region, including Salem’s Kim Driscoll and Ted Bettencourt in Peabody.

Both contenders have largely kept pace with each other in the money race.

Markey has raised more than $10.4 million and spent roughly $7.8 million as of June 30, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

Kennedy has raised more than $7.8 million since he entered the race last September and has spent nearly that much, his FEC filings show.

Super PACs supporting either candidate have spent millions of dollars running campaign ads.

Recent polls have shown a tightening race between the two candidates, with Kennedy’s previous lead now within the margin of error.

On the Republican ticket, Attorney Kevin O’Connor is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge the winner of the Democratic primary.

Independent Shiva Ayyadurai, who ran in the 2018 Senate race, is also vying for the Republican nomination.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at


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