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UML's Cliverius: Kennedy's Senate Bid Is A Win-Win

Sep 22, 2019 11:09PM

Joseph Kennedy, III

U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III’s anticipated bid to oust incumbent U.S. Sen. Edward Markey for the chance to represent Massachusetts is “a win-win” for the Kennedy scion, according to a UMass Lowell politics expert available for interviews on the race.

Kennedy, 38,  officially announced his challenge to fellow Democrat Markey, 73, on Saturday. Although the primary is a year away, Kennedy is joining this race now because it’s likely his best shot to become a senator, according to elections and polling expert John Cluverius, associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.

“If the primary were a race for an open seat, Kennedy could easily be running against two or three of his congressional colleagues, all of whom have power bases in the state and could outflank him on either side ideologically. He also knows that running against one of his female congressional colleagues would be riskier as well; the most recent data from 2018 shows that women candidates have some structural advantage in Democratic primaries. Either he beats Markey and he’s a senator, or he raises his profile and builds a statewide organization so that he can win an open seat down the line. It’s win-win for him,” Cluverius said.

Little ideologically separates Kennedy and Markey, according to Cluverius, but that doesn’t mean voters won’t choose sides fairly quickly.  

“This primary isn’t about substance or even style, really. It’s shaping up to be a ‘Seinfeld’ primary: In most ways, it’s about nothing, but it’s going to deeply divide people strongly attached to one side or the other,” Cluverius said. “Markey and Kennedy have similar positions on issues and they have both actively courted people on the insurgent left wing of the Democratic Party. Markey counts progressive heroes like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren among his endorsements and Kennedy has both youth and the right name in Massachusetts.”  

In addition to his role with the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, Cluverius is an assistant professor of political science. Before joining the university, he worked as a political operative for a variety of candidates for elective office and interest groups.
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