Pemberton decries ‘rigged’ system, drops out of 2020 Senate race

NEWTON, MA – AUGUST 27: Steve Pemberton, who is running for the U.S. Senate, speaks with reporters on August 27, 2019 in Newton, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Steve Pemberton offered a scathing rebuke of the country’s “rigged” political system that he said favors establishment candidates and “blacklists” lesser-known candidates like himself as he announced he was dropping out of the 2020 U.S. Senate race.

“Until we really challenge this rigged system that favors wealth, longevity and legacy, the public will be denied true choice in the voting booth and will be forced to pick between subtlety different shades of the same political establishment candidates,” Pemberton said in a statement Monday.

Pemberton said he “ran into an impenetrable wall of legacy and birthright — of incumbency and connections” in the race where he faced high-profile competitors in incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III in a political system he says discourages diversity.

Pemberton, a 52-year-old New Bedford-raised businessman and author, launched his challenge against Markey in July. His decision to pull out of the race comes three weeks after Kennedy said he would also challenge the junior senator for the seat in 2020.

Pemberton blasted the Democratic Party for publicly advocating for diverse voices in government while holding up establishment politics. He condemned hypocritical Democratic insiders who he said criticized him for breaking the party rule of challenging an incumbent, but then changed their tune when Kennedy entered into the race.

“The message, delivered to me, in word and in deed was abundantly clear: those same rules did not apply to him,” Pemberton said.

The campaigns for Kennedy and Markey declined to directly address Pemberton’s accusations, but both issued statements thanking Pemberton,.

“Joe appreciates the powerful voice that Steve Pemberton brought to the Senate race,” campaign spokeswoman Nicole Caravella said.

Markey, 73, said in a statement that Pemberton ran a campaign that “elevated the voices of the marginalized so that their potential could be maximized,” and appreciated his “dedication to the needs of those whose voices are too often missing from public debate and policymaking.”

Another Markey challenger, labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, said in a statement on Monday that she has encountered similar obstacles in her candidacy.

“There is a hunger among voters for a new voice. Washington, and yes the Democratic Party, is failing working people,” she stated.

Pemberton said he was faced with towering obstacles in taking on the “entrenched power” of politicians like Kennedy and Markey.

“They are bolstered by state and federal party bosses who privately blacklist anyone attempting to aid an insurgent campaign while publicly espousing the importance of diversity and inclusivity,” Pemberton said.

Pemberton said he grew up as “a bi-racial foster child lost in the gaps” of an overburdened system after he was removed from his alcoholic mother’s care and his father died from gun violence — a world far away from the “entitlement and privilege” of his opponents.