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The Short List Counts Down To The Sept. 1 Massachusetts Primary

The debate stage at New England Public Media in Springfield, Massachusetts, before the start of the 1st Congressional District debate on August 17, 2020.
Adam Frenier
/
NEPM
The debate stage at New England Public Media in Springfield, Massachusetts, before the start of the 1st Congressional District debate on August 17, 2020.

This week, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and his challenger in the Massachusetts Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, met in the final debate in what has become an increasingly personal race.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has served with both candidates, this week backed Kennedy.

"In 2018, when we took back the House, Joe campaigned across America to make that victory possible," Pelosi said in a video statement. "He knows to achieve progressive change you must be on the front lines, leading movements of people."

Panelist Matt Szafranski said Pelosi's endorsement doesn't necessarily carry enough weight to sway what some see as a tight race (although polls have varied widely).

"It really kind of depends," Szafranski said. "I mean, there's two schools of thought — that there's a part of the electorate in a Democratic primary that hates Nancy Pelosi. And then there's a part of it that, I think, fairly also sees her as an icon of progress for women and and success. I mean, she's one of the most powerful people in the American government."

Szafranski said he doesn't believe the endorsement will really move votes.

"I think it might kind of blunt some of the criticisms that have been coming at Kennedy," he said, "because generally the Markey people and a lot of his supporters have tried to write him off as just being some kind of dilettante."

On the endorsement, panelist Natalia Muñoz said the only thing she can imagine is that Pelosi really wants Kennedy out of the House.

"And like any mother who wants her child out of the house, whatever — I don't care where you go, just go," Muñoz said. "Because otherwise, it makes no sense for her to cross the Capitol and say, 'I endorse this member of my delegation to become a senator in the other chamber.'"

Muñoz said it's possible Pelosi and Markey have had some personal problems, or she is "enamored of the Kennedy name."

"This Kennedy certainly has not done enough of anything to make me think, 'Oh, yeah, he is worth considering seriously,'" she said.

While Kennedy and Markey agree on many issues, the debate on Tuesday was testy. 

"Kennedy — he's sharpening his elbows, he's mudslinging," Muñoz said. "Is that what we want in a senator, somebody who attacks a long-time public servant who has actually done a lot of good for Massachusetts? I think, for me, the answer is no."

Szafranski said he's not sure anybody has the moral high ground "in terms of slinging stuff."

"I mean, I don't want to be a 'pox on both your houses' kind of person, but neither has any high ground in that regard," he said.

Meanwhile, the two Democrats on the ballot in the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District met this week in a pair of debates. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, is facing a challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.

During Monday's forum, some recent allegations against Morse came up. Each candidate also traded jabs over the other's record.

Neal hammered Morse on his poor attendance at municipal meetings.

"But I want to congratulate you on this, Mr. Mayor: 23 meetings of the school building committee in the city of Holyoke, you missed all 23," Neal said.

Morse fired back.

"And talk about showing up and being inaccessible — Congressman Neal hasn't shown up in this district," Morse said. "We're spending more time here tonight than I think we have in the last nine years."

Also this week, officials in Massachusetts announced that effective at the end of the year, most students in the state must get a flu shot to help prevent against an outbreak while the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on.

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