Joe Kennedy III gets a warm welcome amid Senate primary challenge

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  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, speaks to about 30 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, speaks to about 30 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, speaks to about 30 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, speaks to about 30 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, speaks to about 30 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, speaks to about 30 people attending a meet and greet at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, talks with Jay Candelaria of Holyoke, one of about 30 people attending a meet and greet with the congressman at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, poses for a photo with former Northampton District Court judge W. Michael Ryan, left, Emily Fitzgerald of Southampton and Northampton Ward 1 City Councilor-elect Michael Quinlan following a meet and greet with the congressman at a Northampton home on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass, talks with reporters after meeting with about 30 people at the Northampton home of Lisa Lippiello and Bonnie Sachs on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 11/9/2019 5:31:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In a home overlooking the mountains off Westhampton Road on Saturday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III fielded questions from about 30 politically active Democrats on topics ranging from climate change to health care amid his Democratic primary challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey.

Kennedy began his talk with an overview of his life growing up in Boston. After high school, he attended Stanford University before a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He returned to the U.S. to study law and became a prosecutor outside Boston, working with people facing eviction during the housing crisis in 2008.

“It was a front-row seat to the experience of how sometimes in this country how injustice is actually systemic and reinforced by policies and laws that our government chose and passed,” said the four-term congressman, a grandson of the late Sen. and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Much of his talk centered on President Donald Trump and Trump’s policies rather than his opponents in the primary, Markey and attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan.

“We’ve never had a president of the United States who has actively tried to attack those who are most vulnerable to begin with,” Kennedy said. “And we have to do all that we can, every single day, to push back against Donald Trump and the hate and vitriol policy that he puts out of the White House.”

As Kennedy and Markey share similar political views, their obvious contrast is in age — Kennedy was born four years after Markey was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1976. For some voters, including longtime Northampton resident W. Michael Ryan, who was in eighth grade when he saw John F. Kennedy run for president, age is a major factor in their support for the younger candidate.

“I think after what happened in 2016, we have to put the old warriors out to pasture,” Ryan said.

“We need young people, stronger people, people with stamina, people with their eye on the future. I think Ed Markey has done a good job, but it’s time for my generation to turn it over to a new generation.”

Markey has racked up endorsements from some major names in politics, including presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who co-sponsored the Green New Deal with him. One of Kennedy’s first endorsements came Friday from state Sen. Eric Lesser.

After Kennedy’s talk, the crowd asked questions, focusing heavily on environmental issues, including how potentially replacing a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal might affect the plan.

“The idea that this race is a referendum on the Green New Deal, a piece of legislation that I signed onto on day one, is not the case,” he said. “I fundamentally don’t think that’s an accurate way of portraying what I believe this race is about.”

Kennedy has come under criticism after announcing that he wouldn’t be attending a climate debate Sunday at Stonehill College along with Markey and Liss-Riordan. When asked about it Saturday, Kennedy said he has proposed “the most robust debate schedule in modern history in Massachusetts for a Senate race,” and that the debate came at an inconvenient time in the campaign.

Michael Quinlan, the recently elected Ward 1 City Councilor in Northampton, was in attendance Saturday to see Kennedy, who has won praise for his speaking abilities, in person.

“He can also command national attention because of the lineage of his family, so I think it’s interesting to see where his story will take him,” Quinlan said.

“I saw him speaking on the House floor, and I was hooked,” said retired Palmer resident Kathryn Massey, 57. “It was so impassioned, and it was how we’re treating the poor in our own communities in this country. I really, really, really think this guy has something special.”

The event was hosted at Northampton laywer Lisa Lippiello’s family home. When a volunteer on Kennedy’s campaign reached out to Lipiello, who serves on the board of directors for the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, asking if she knew of a place to hold the event, the lawyer offered her own home.

“When he reached out to me just a few days ago and asked … I thought, sure, we just built a home with beautiful views, and we’d love to have him here,” Lipiello said.

Historically, many Massachusetts politicians have gone on to higher offices after stints working in the commonwealth, and that’s what draws Florence resident Russ Carrier, 71, to Kennedy. He pointed to past state politicians such as John Kerry, who went on to become secretary of state, and JFK.

“I think this is the man of the future, and Massachusetts has always been known for having senators who are bigger than the state,” said Carrier, president of the Forbes Library board of trustees. “I think Joe Kennedy has the potential to be the kind of a senator we are historically known for.”


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