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Joseph Kennedy III defeated in Massachusetts senate primary

In the waning weeks of the campaign, Kennedy had leaned into his family’s long political legacy in Massachusetts.

2.55277948 (1) Source: PA Images

US SENATOR EDWARD Markey of Massachusetts has defeated Joe Kennedy III in a Democratic primary.

Markey had harnessed support from progressive leaders to overcome the challenge from a younger rival who is a member of America’s most famous political family.

It marks the first time a Kennedy has lost a race for US congress in the state. Kennedy is the son of former representative Joe Kennedy II, the grandson of Robert Kennedy, and the grand-nephew of John F Kennedy.

Markey appealed to voters in the deeply Democratic state by aligning himself with the liberal wing of the party.

He teamed up with a leading progressive, New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the Green New Deal climate change initiative – and at one point labelled Kennedy “a progressive in name only”.

That helped Markey overcome the enduring power of the Kennedy name in Massachusetts.

2.55278351 US Senator Edward Markey Source: PA Images

The 39-year-old congressman had sought to cast the 74-year-old Markey as someone out of touch after spending decades in congress, first in the house of representatives before moving to the senate.

At a victory celebration in his hometown of Malden, Massachusetts, Markey ticked off a series of priorities, from support for the Black Lives Matter movement to a call for Medicare for All, to combating climate change, a signature issue for Markey.

Democratic representative Kennedy said that while the results are not the ones he had hoped for, he would work for Markey’s re-election in the November poll.

He said: “The senator is a good man. You never heard me say otherwise.”

Kennedy also suggested that the movement of supporters the campaign pulled together would continue past the current election.

“We may have lost the final vote count tonight but we built a coalition that will endure,” he said. “I would do this again with all of you in a heartbeat.”

In the waning weeks of the campaign, Kennedy had leaned into his family’s long political legacy in Massachusetts.

His pedigree includes former president John F Kennedy; former US senator and US attorney general Robert F Kennedy, his grandfather; and former US senator Edward Kennedy, who held a senate seat in Massachusetts for nearly half a century until his death in 2009.

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Markey countered by leaning into his own family story – growing up in the working class city of Malden with a father who drove a truck for the Hood Milk company.

The incumbent now faces a general election contest where he is considered a strong favourite against Republican primary winner, Kevin O’Connor, in November.

Writing for TheJournal.ie in March, political columnist Larry Donnelly said that the result of this primary will be “hugely significant, no matter who wins.”

Had Kennedy emerged victorious, Donnelly wrote that “speculation would commence immediately and in earnest then as to when he will seek the presidency, just as it did after JFK’s elevation from the House to the Senate in 1952.”

However, it was not to be. 

“If he loses,” wrote Donnelly, “it may mark the finish of his career in elected office and the end of the storied Irish-American political dynasty for the foreseeable future.” 

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