Friday, August 14, 2020

Race of the Day- Massachusetts U.S. Senate

 Massachusetts U.S. Senate

81 Days Until Election Day
Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

In many states, the general elections are already in full swing, but in Massachusetts, the nominees will not be decided until September 1. Four candidates are running. Two Democrats and two Republicans. Three Irishmen and an Indian. However, it seems very clear that the election will be determined in the Democrats' primary and the Republican side of the ballot will be a bit of a consolation prize, or perhaps even a form of punishment.
For many years, the two Senators from the Commonwealth were Democrats Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. The year the latter first got elected was 1984, and in that campaign, Ed Markey, a Congressman associated with the anti-nuclear movement, who had been in office since 1976, also wanted to be a Senator. He would eventually though leave that race to seek reelection to his safe House seat. Markey would go on to serve many more terms in Congress, gaining seniority and influence, while still harboring ambitions of becoming a Senator. There would not be an opening though, even as Kerry ran for President and lost. In 2009, Senator Kennedy passed away, but Markey made a difficult decision to not run in the special election in order to continue his House work. By 2012 though, Democrats had lost their House majority, and Senator Kerry was picked to be the new Secretary of State. A caretaker would be appointed to the seat, but this time Markey made the plunge. After reasonably competitive primaries and general elections, Markey won election to the Senate and was off to the other side of Capitol Hill after 37 years and at the age of 67. Winning election to a full term the next year was pretty much a breeze.
Markey had already been in Congress for almost four years when Joseph Patrick Kennedy III was born. He was part of twin brothers but happened to be the one selected to carry on the names associated with his famous political ancestors. Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was the well known scion of the family with heaps of ambition for his sons. Joseph Kennedy Jr though was killed in World War II before he could embark on a political career. It would be up to younger brother John, who would go from the House to the Senate in Massachusetts and then to the White House. When his Senate seat was vacated after 1960, the Kennedy name proved quite valuable and the then very young Ted Kennedy took that seat in 1962. He would be joined two years later by brother Bobby who was elected from New York. This Kennedy had a whole bunch of children including Josepeh II.
As is well known in American history, John F. Kennedy was assassinated as was his brother Bobby as he was attempting to follow his slain brother to the White House. Ted Kennedy would embark on his one highly anticipated run for the Presidency against an incumbent Democrat, but the Kennedy name was not magic enough anymore to capture the nomination. That was the year that nephew Joseph III would be born to Joseph II and before long the latter would become the first Kennedy of his generation to win office by being elected to Congress. While looked upon as a rising star in politics, Congressman Kennedy served a dozen years in Congress but never ran statewide. In fact none of his cousins who also entered politics ever managed to win a statewide election on their own (a contrast to the mulitgenerational statewide of the Bush Dynasty) save for his older sister winning on a ticket for Lt. Governor in Maryland. When she ran on her own for Governor, she lost in an upset. (Do the wins in California for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger count though?... also Andrew Cuomo was already divorced from a Kennedy when he won statewide in New York.)
There were a couple of years or so before 2012 when there was not a member of the Kennedy Family serving in Congress for the first time in generations. Then, Joseph Kennedy III was elected to Congress from Massachusetts becoming the first of his generation of Kennedys (making for three of the last four overall if you count his maternal great-great grandfather) to serve, and with him from the traditional Bay State base. Young Kennedy was seen as a rising political star and with the telegenic looks and charisma of his great-uncles. With some already talking about him as a potential future President, he was given to give his party's response to Donald Trump's first address to Congress and received mixed remarks, although that is not uncommon for that task for anyone.
Kennedy could remain in his House seat for however long he wants or he could be a top contender for Governor  when that office opens up again (right now the state has a very popular Republican in the Corner Office), but his ambition was to be a Senator, he did not feel like waiting his turn, and he decided to run in 2020 whether incumbent Senator Markey would step aside or not. He has borrowed the campaign logo of John Kennedy's first Senate campaign as he attempts to be the first Kennedy of his generation (and who is seemingly the only prospect) to win a statewide election. In some ways, this resembles the run that Ted Kennedy made against Jimmy Carter, and all the anticipation of a "return to Camelot" that many Democrats felt about that, only to see it turn out differently.
When the cycle began, Kennedy looked like a favorite to beat Markey and become a Senator. After all, a Kennedy had never lost a race in Massachusetts. The ginger haired Congressman, 34 years younger than his opponent, was seen as more dynamic and charismatic, even though there were not many issue differences between the two men. If anything, Kennedy was perhaps seen as more "moderate" than the longtime liberal Markey.
Before returning to how the primary has progressed, let us take a brief look at the Republicans. After all, one will be nominated and despite how pissed off the supporters of the losing Democrat will be, will still be unable to win many of those voters in one of the most left-leaning states in America. The special election victory of Republican Scott Brown (to take the seat of the late Ted Kennedy) now looks like a one time fluke that would be even that much harder to pull off as Donald Trump has replaced former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as a Republican Presidential nominee.
Attorney Kevin O'Connor is seeking the GOP nomination. He seems like a fairly mainstream Republican, albeit likely to far to the right for the state. In order to move on though, he will need to defeat computer scientist Shiva Ayyadurai. The candidate, who has a Ph.D. and three other degrees from MIT ran as an Independent for the Senate in 2018 and is now seeking the Republican nomination, when he seems to have a better chance of winning a primary. An immigrant from India at the age of 7, Ayyadurai has said some controversial things. He claims to have invented email as a 14 year old student which is a claim that is not widely bought by experts, which he has blamed on racism. For a couple years, he was romantically linked to actress Fran Drescher, and the two said they had gotten married, which was also not exactly true.
Nowadays, Ayyadurai is making false claims about Covid-19 and has been very disparaging of Dr. Anthony Fauci, which is increasingly common on the right wing. He has taken to talking about "Deep State" conspiracies and fellow travelers in that sort of thing, including the QAnon quacks have basically called for the computer scientist and businessman to replace Dr. Fauci. As far as we know, Donald Trump has yet to call him though. Republicans could save themselves some further embarassment by choosing O'Connor over Ayyadurai.
Nonetheless, we will know after September 1 who will hold this seat. It will be either Markey keeping it or Kennedy taking it away from him. In a lower key workman-life fashion, Markey has fought hard to keep his job and to appeal to Democrats on his record and position on issues. For example, Markey is the Senate sponsor of the "Green New Deal" and has won the endorsement of the House sponsor, New York Congresswoman (and democratic socialist) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most highly visible young figures in the party. Much of Massachusetts' political establishment, including senior Senator Elizabeth Warren, also seem lined up behind Markey's reelection.
Kennedy does have the support of many of his House colleagues but seemingly none from the state. Some of the past prominent Republicans from the state have expressed a preference for Kennedy over Markey though. The labor unions look fairly split in their endorsements. The biggest name endorsement for Kennedy was perhaps Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who recently passed away. If Kennedy loses this race, it will be up to the wife of his cousin (also a former Congressman from Rhode Island) to win a competitive race in New Jersey against an incumbent Republican to keep the family (sorta) still on Capitol Hill.
With early conventional wisdom having Kennedy as the frontrunner, many might now be surprised to see polls that show Markey not only is ahead, but apparently ahead by a large and growing margin. Right now, it looks like it will take a major upset for Kennedy to win the primary. The soon to be 40 year old Congressman is seen by many now as overly ambitious and perhaps more flash as compared to Markey's substance.
In 1962, the Kennedy name was enough in Massachusetts for Democrats to pick young Teddy over a much more experienced opponent. Many years later, Joseph III would manage his uncles campaigns and learned the value of political experience and seniority in the state. In running for the Senate this year, he might realize that times have changed since 1962 and his last name may not mean as much (despite being a lot more accomplished at this stage in his life than Teddy was then and seemingly a far more solid citizen and family man than his Uncle ever was.)
Unless something dramatic happens, Markey will win the primary and a Kennedy will have lost for the first time in Massachusetts... and in a Democrat primary at that.
U.S. Senate races predicted thus far:

7 D (3 Safe, 2 Lean, 2 Tossup) 
9 R (2 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

42 Democrats (35 holdovers, 3 Safe, 2 Lean, 2 Tossup)
39 Republicans (30 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 1 Tossup)


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