Kennedy: ‘We deserve more from our senator’

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., speaks to about 40 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs, Nov. 9. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Congressman Joe Kennedy III speaks at a town hall at AmherstWorks in January. Gazette file photo

  • In this Feb. 20, 2017, file photo, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass., left, talks with Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., during a dedication ceremony for the John F. Kennedy Centennial Stamp at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 8/13/2020 7:02:56 PM
Modified: 8/13/2020 7:02:46 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As COVID-19 continues to spread across the state and country, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III says the pandemic has exposed the country’s vulnerabilities and that a change in political leadership is needed to fix them.

“We have the opportunity to use this crisis to drive massive change, to make our country brighter and stronger in the future,” Kennedy said. “I don’t think we’re going to deliver on that change with the exact same folks doing the exact same thing and more of the same, because more of the same got us to where we are.”

Kennedy’s statement came in response to a question from the Gazette’s editorial board, which Kennedy met with Monday as he attempts to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. The editors began by asking Kennedy why he is running in the first place, given Markey’s progressive credentials.

“I’m running because we deserve more from our senator,” Kennedy said, accusing Markey of spending little time in Massachusetts, missing votes in Washington, and not campaigning enough for other Democratic candidates.

“If you’re not here in Massachusetts but you’re not campaigning anywhere else … and you’re not being as present as we need you to be at this enormously consequential time, then I don’t think you can sit there and say that you’re doing the job.”

Kennedy, who has served in the House since 2013, spoke during the meeting about child care during the pandemic, the underfunding of education and social services, his political donors, coronavirus relief to businesses and families, and western Massachusetts’ economy. He began by noting the need for expanded child care, particularly amid the pandemic.

“It’s unaffordable, completely and totally unaffordable,” he said. He said child care should be seen as a public good, just like education.

Kennedy also called for ensuring all Massachusetts municipalities have broadband internet access, and for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act, the coronavirus stimulus package the House has passed, which includes money for municipalities.

Asked about an effort in Amherst to pay reparations to Black residents, Kennedy said he is a supporter of a House bill that would create a commission to study reparations proposals.

“Congress needs to, our country needs to, have a conversation about that, about how we want to rectify the sins of the past,” he said. “I think 100% the place to start is with an acknowledgment and apology.”

As additional unemployment benefits have recently lapsed and many families face dire economic consequences as a result, Kennedy called for more direct cash payments, which he said have also helped local businesses that are now seeing a decline in sales. He also highlighted his coronavirus recovery proposal of a jobs and public-works program.

Beyond short-term solutions to the crisis, like direct aid to small businesses, Kennedy said the country needs to address supply chain vulnerabilities that have been exposed by the pandemic. He said the fact that hospital gowns, for example, are made in China means that during a global pandemic when the United States can’t get them from China, Americans suffer.

“You’ve got the U.S. government, hospitals and states playing off of each other, drastically shooting that price up, and you’ve got nurses wearing trash bags to go to work,” he said, calling for more investment in businesses rooted in communities in Massachusetts.

When asked about his donors, Kennedy said he has been a strong advocate for campaign finance reform. He also pointed to his work in law school as a tenants’ rights lawyer.

“What I’ve tried to do is make very clear what my values are, what kind of legislation I filed, and how I believe this system needs to be reformed,” he said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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