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Joe Kennedy is a great progressive choice for the Senate

People in Massachusetts are fortunate. You have many strong members of Congress, and you have two progressives running for the U.S. Senate. As a progressive leader in Congress, I endorsed Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a strong progressive, for the sake of our future.

You’d think a compliment would be read as just that. Both Senate candidates are strong progressives, but for a number of reasons, I endorsed the person that I think is best – as happens by political figures everyday.

But I was a bit surprised not just to see the strong misinformation out there about the candidates, but the vitriolic response by some to stating their view on Twitter.

I hadn’t intended to respond further. But some have asked for a response as to why. So rather than try to communicate in 280 characters on Twitter like way too many do, I thought I’d lay out my rationale and clear up some misconceptions.

First, and most important, both Sen. Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III are progressives. That’s not just my opinion, that based on facts. If you check their lifetime progressive voting scores, they differ by a mere 1.5 percent – on top of the list of members of Congress. It’s their voting records – the best way to hold an elected official accountable – that states that fact. Further, some are attacking Joe by calling him a “corporatist”. Ironically, aside from the reality of voting records, Joe Kennedy was the first U.S. Senate candidate in the race to forego corporate contributions. Ed followed. Again, facts matter.

Second, I’ve served with both individuals. I personally find Joe Kennedy more effective. He can reach out to people and find what they have in common – and work off of that to advance progressive ideals. It’s a rare politician who takes on issues that neither raise money or are intended to get votes, but Joe has done just that multiple times. He is the foremost advocate for equality for our transgender community. He does that because he has the right values, and thinks everyone should be treated equally, with respect and dignity, not for political gain.

Third, I think many who are following this race are newer to political activity. Many respect Ed Markey for being the Senate lead on the Green New Deal. I thank him for that. But, Joe also supports the GND. And in the 44 years that Ed has been in office, he’s often wound up having a progressive position. But those positions were not instinctive or intuitive like for many progressives. Many would be surprised to know that Ed voted for the ’94 crime bill, voted with a minority of House Democrats for the Iraq invasion, voted for the Patriot Act, and voted “Present” on using military force in Syria. And his much-touted Telecoms Bill was supposed to spur competition, but instead led to a consolidation of big telecom companies hurting consumers even further. But I don’t hold those against Ed, I merely raise them as examples of even good people not always getting it right at first. He’s just not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Fourth, I think 44 years is a LONG time in a job. As we just honored the amazing John Lewis for his remarkable life, we note his very long list of accomplishments in his 34 years in Congress. I don’t see a parallel here with an additional decade of being in elected office. Holding federal office for 40 plus years is not, in my opinion, the best way to create change.

Fifth, Joe Kennedy is an active member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Ed was a member in the House, but has not been a member since going to the Senate like Bernie Sanders has. Joe’s work has not only helped us on policy, but also politically in electing more progressives to office.

Sixth, many of the BIG issues progressives are advancing are going to take staying power. They won’t become law in a year or two. They will take work. They will require building both public and legislative support. Joe has a long career ahead of him that will work strongly to advance the issues that I and other progressives care about.

And finally, I know and trust Joe. He’s been an excellent colleague and friend. I’ve seen firsthand the work he does, and I know his values. Most people don’t actually know both candidates. I do. And my opinion is Joe would make an excellent senator.

I respect anyone who wants to run for office as a progressive. But people have different reasons for coming to where they do on endorsements. It’s not black and white. It’s about your life experiences, your knowledge and your analysis of what’s best. I don’t admonish anyone who backs Ed Markey, nor should anyone for backing Joe Kennedy. I just merely think Joe is the best progressive choice for our future.

Mark Pocan represents the 2nd District of Wisconsin and is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Tags Bernie Sanders Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Green New Deal Joe Kennedy John Lewis Mark Pocan Massachusetts senate race progressive

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