Kennedy stumps in Amherst

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Newton, speaks at a town hall at AmherstWorks on Sunday. Bera Dunau—Gazette Staff

  • Bera Dunau—Gazette Staff Bera Dunau—Gazette Staff

Staff Writer
Published: 1/19/2020 11:55:56 PM

AMHERST — U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Newton, spoke to dozens of voters at a Sunday town hall at AmherstWorks as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate, where he made the case for vigorous opposition to President Trump and highlighted his strength as a campaigner for other candidates.

“A Massachusetts Senate seat I don’t think is one where we say, ‘Hey you know what? Voting the right way and filing the right legislation is enough,’ given the challenging times that we’re in,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy is running against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey in the Democratic Party primary. Two other Markey challengers, labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan and businessman Steve Pemberton, have dropped out of the Sept. 1 primary.

The general election will be held on Nov. 3, and looks to heavily favor the eventual Democratic nominee.

Kennedy is the great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy, the son of former congressman Joseph Kennedy II, and the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. He currently represents the state’s 4th Congressional District.

Kennedy was introduced by Mary Olberding, the Hampshire County Register of Deeds. She credited Kennedy with helping to elect the “blue wave” of Democratic candidates who flipped the U.S. House in 2018. She also said that if he won the primary, he could do the same for the Senate.

“I am not supporting him because of the past. I’m supporting him because he’s the future,” Olberding said. “I don’t want to wait six years for the future, I want the future now.”

Before taking questions from the audience, Kennedy sketched out his biography, noting his current status as a father of two young children, his time in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, his work as an assistant district attorney, and his service in Congress.

Kennedy also had harsh words for the president.

“Our job, my job, is to push back and fight back against the Trump administration every single day,” he said.

He said that Trump was actively trying to roll back who was included in the American concept of “we,” and compared the current moment in history to the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and the turning back of Holocaust refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939.

“I know what history will say about (Trump),” he said. “The question is what does it say about the rest of us? And whether we did everything we could to reclaim the soul and direction and character of our country.”

Asked under what circumstances he wouldn’t tell the truth to the American people, Kennedy said, “I’m not going to lie to the American people, period.”

On questions he couldn’t share the answer to, he said he would say that. And he used the question to talk about the Afghanistan Papers, documents on the war that were published recently in the Washington Post. He said that they show that leaders under multiple administrations on a bipartisan basis have “at the very least” not been fully forthcoming with the American people and at worst lying to them about the war.

Additionally, Kennedy said that he’s been outspokenly in favor of repealing the authorization for the use of military force in Iraq, and the authorization for the use of force against those responsible for 9/11.

“If you truly believe that U.S. military forces stationed throughout the Middle East, and around the world by the way, is going to make our country safer, then explain to the American public how,” he said. “Don’t hide behind an authorization.”

Nancy Grossman, of Leverett, asked Kennedy how he would surpass Markey as a climate advocate, noting that Markey is the co-sponsor the Green New Deal.

Markey is the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal in the Senate, legislation that Kennedy has also signed onto.

Kennedy, 39, said his generation “doesn’t have the luxury of kicking the can down the road.”

“We can’t, and I won’t,” he said.

He also said that he has a strong environmental record, noting that he has a lifetime League of Conservation Voters score of 95%, while Markey has a score of 94%.

Kennedy said he’s the only candidate in the Senate race who has called for the end of the filibuster and for instituting term limits for Supreme Court justices.

The congressman said that access to mental and behavioral health care has been a major focus of his, and he said that coverage in and of itself is not enough, because there is a widespread shortage of mental health professionals in many parts of the United States. He linked this with his support for Medicare for All.

“That push for Medicare for All needs to take place because otherwise the incentive structure that we have in our system ain’t gonna change,” he said.

Another idea that Kennedy brought up was universal child care, although he said it wasn’t as “big and bold” as our nation’s successful effort to go to the moon.

“If you can do that, then you can’t possibly tell me that universal child care is a big bold thing that we just can’t do,” he continued. “No, it’s not. You went to the moon.”

Kennedy got visibly emotional when talking about visiting Hiroshima, a Japanese city the United States dropped an atomic bomb on in World War II. He spoke about meeting with survivors of the atomic bombing and going to ground zero of the blast.

Kennedy’s remarks came in response to a question from Lois Barber, who asked if he would support the United States signing onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Although Kennedy didn’t say whether or not he would back the treaty, he did have strong words on the subject of nuclear weapons.

“You listen to those stories and it is awfully hard to countenance the use of atomic weapons in any circumstance,” he said.

Kennedy noted that the United States has come close to nuclear conflict multiple times, also noting the role of mistakes and miscalculation, and he expressed support for creating a world where that could not take place.

“However I can help,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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