Kennedy invokes family’s legacy in bid to unseat Markey

BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III on Monday invoked his family’s long political legacy in his bid to unseat incumbent fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

Kennedy recalled the civil rights efforts of former President John Kennedy, Sen. Edward Kennedy and his grandfather U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy while arguing that Markey has not been aggressive enough in pushing for civil rights during his long political career.

Kennedy, flanked by about a dozen Black leaders, said he decided to raise his family’s legacy in response to what he said was Markey’s decision to make them an issue in the race by “questioning their integrity, weaponizing their history, appropriating their words.”

“If he wants to talk about the Kennedys, then I will talk about the Kennedys,” Kennedy said during a press conference on City Hall Plaza steps away from a federal building named after President Kennedy.

Kennedy said that during an era when the Markey was opposing efforts to desegregate the Boston Public Schools, his family was taking a lead on civil rights.

“President Kennedy was writing the Civil Rights Act. My grandfather was sending federal marshals to protect the freedom riders and sending the National Guard to a school house door, fighting his own party to desegregate the south,” Kennedy said.

Markey has noted that he changed his mind 40 years ago about efforts during the 1970s to desegregate Boston schools through busing.

Kennedy’s latest comments come in the wake of a debate last week during which Markey pressed him to ask his father — former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy II — if he was helping fund a political action committee running what Markey described as negative ads against him.

“Is your father funding that super PAC that is attacking me right now?” Markey said.

“No clue. No idea,” Kennedy said,

“I’m sure your father is watching right now,” Markey responded. “Tell your father right now that you don’t want money to go into a super PAC that runs negative ads.”

Kennedy on Monday also appeared to reference an online ad in which Markey flips President Kennedy’s famed inaugural address quote “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

In the ad, Markey says: “We asked what we could do for our country. We went out. We did it. With all due respect, it’s time to start asking what your country can do for you.”

Markey campaign manager John Walsh responded to Kennedy’s latest comments on Monday.

“It’s not enough that his Super PAC is running negative ads against Senator Markey, now Congressman Kennedy himself is launching desperate, baseless attacks,” Walsh said in a written statement.

“Senator Markey is running a positive campaign on the issues that matter most to the people of Massachusetts — combating the climate crisis with a Green New Deal, providing universal health care with Medicare For All, fighting for racial justice and police accountability, and stopping the spread of the coronavirus,” he added.

Monday wasn’t the first time Kennedy has invoked his family’s painful history.

During the exchange with Markey during last week’s debate, Kennedy said that supporters of Markey “have put out tweets saying that Lee Harvey got the wrong Kennedy” — a reference to the JFK assassination.

Markey called the tweets “completely unacceptable.”

The two face off against each other again on Tuesday,

Markey, 74, has served in Congress for decades — first in the House and later in the Senate. The 39-year-old Kennedy currently represents the state’s 4th Congressional District.

The primary is Sept. 1.