DRACUT – Just hours after announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate, Congressman Joe Kennedy III stopped by State Rep. David Nangle’s annual clambake held at Lenzi’s in Dracut.
Currently in his fourth term, Kennedy represents the Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District, which stretches from Brookline and Newton to Fall River. In East Boston on Saturday morning, Kennedy, 38, announced that he will be challenging incumbent Sen. Edward Markey, 73, in next year’s Democratic primary.
His announcement kicked off a weekend tour of the state that included stops in Salem, Dracut, Lawrence and Fitchburg.
Kennedy’s challenge has divided democrats over who they will support.
Senior Democrats Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY; and presiential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass; have endorsed Markey, as have freshmen congresswomen Lori Trahan, D-Mass; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY.
At Nangle’s event, Kennedy said he respects his colleagues in Washington, but noted that endorsements do not fill out ballots.
“The people in Massachusetts are going to decide the election,” Kennedy said.
Discussing the need to flip the Senate, Kennedy said it is not enough just to take on President Donald Trump.
On his reasons for challenging Markey, Kennedy said Massachusetts needs a senator who is “fully engaged” nationally and locally on issues like housing, infrastructure and opioid use.
“I think I can do it better,” Kennedy said.
Nangle, who represents parts of Chelmsford and Lowell, agrees.
Nangle called Kennedy an effective congressman in the energy he brings and his responsiveness to issues like healthcare and climate change.
“I think he kind of represents a new generation,” Nangle said.
Kennedy’s energy and community-minded approach is also what earned him support from former state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos.
Both Nangle and Panagiotakos acknowledged that Markey has had a “distinguished” career in the Senate.
“Ed’s been a good senator, no doubt about it,” Panagiotakos said.
However, Nangle supports Kennedy’s challenge.
“That’s democracy, that’s what I like about it, it’s good for debate, it’s good for elections,” Nangle said.
Not all who attended Nangle’s event support Kennedy.
State Reps. Linda Dean Campbell, 15th Essex District; Paul Donato, 35th Middlesex District; and Joe McGonagle, 28th Middlesex, are backing Markey.
For Campbell and Donato, the decision to back Markey was an easy one.
“He’s my consituent,” Donato joked before adding that Markey has been “very good” to the people in his district.
Campbell said she supports Markey for his leadership on environmental issues, particularly as they relate to the Merrimack River.
Lowell resident Mary Neyloe, who attended Nangle’s event, has not yet decided how she’ll vote but feels that Markey is too liberal. In particular, Neyloe said, she has not heard Markey discuss education and does not like his pro-choice stance on abortion.
Neyloe worked on the first campaign for Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, but said she needs to learn more about Kennedy before deciding if she’ll vote for him.
Like Nangle, Neyloe likes that Kennedy is challenging Markey.
“I think it’s a good thing, I think anybody can stay in office too long,” Neyloe said.