Edward J. Markey’s best chance of staving off a challenge to his Senate seat from a scion of the Kennedy family may lay with emphasizing his marquee issue: climate change.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III's announcement Saturday that he is seeking the Massachusetts seat pits the 73-year-old incumbent against a 38-year-old grandson of Robert Kennedy and great-nephew of John F. Kennedy. Like many other Democratic primary challengers, Kennedy is calling for a new generation of leaders for the sake of the party's future. In a video sent to supporters, Kennedy promised to take on “outdated structures and old rules," Karen Weintraub and Colby Itkowitz report for The Post.
But Markey, who has served in Congress for longer than Kennedy has been alive, brings a twist to the debate on generational change. He is viewed by many in Washington and Massachusetts as a major advocate on Capitol Hill for efforts to combat climate change, an issue young voters view as one of their generation’s greatest challenges.
“There's no greater champion in the United States Congress — House or Senate — than Ed Markey on this issue,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, which endorsed Markey and is directing its members to donate to his campaign.
But Kennedy could be a formidable challenge: A recent Boston Globe-Suffolk University poll gives Kennedy a 14-point lead over Markey, with 29 percent of respondents undecided.
Markey, who spent Friday with student climate strikers in Boston, is already leveraging his long history of climate advocacy: He has lined up a number of endorsements from both local and national environmental groups as well as other politicians. And it's not exactly the usual suspects: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a freshman who unseated the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House in 2018, is also endorsing him.
Earlier this year, Markey and Ocasio-Cortez set the tone for the climate debate in Washington by introducing together their Green New Deal, which broadly calls for the country to eliminate its contributions to climate change.
We have to do more than take back the WH.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 13, 2019
We must do so w/ a stronger Democratic Party that fights for working people - & that includes newcomers longtime fighters.
I’m proud to endorse my #GreenNewDeal co-author climate champion @EdMarkey for Senate.pic.twitter.com/WrYmTaJrnn
Before joining the Senate in 2013, Markey chaired the House committee that investigated BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and was one of the original sponsors of Barack Obama's ultimately unsuccessful cap-and-trade plan for carbon dioxide, which passed the House in 2009 before dying in the Senate.
Kennedy, meanwhile, comes to the race bolstered by his famous last name and as part of a wave of challengers seeking to unseat Democratic incumbents in recent election cycles.
But given Markey's progressive positions, it's an open question how the dynamics will play out in this particular race. "It will be interesting to see if either campaign succeeds in mobilizing younger voters,” said Tim Vercellotti, professor and director of a polling institute at Western New England University. “They each have a claim to them. Kennedy because of his youth, but Markey because climate change is his signature issue.”
Seeking to position himself in lockstep with Markey on the issue, Kennedy vowed to build “a collective will to tackle our climate crisis” in a video announcing his candidacy.
During his six years in Congress, Kennedy has consistently voted down the party line on environmental issues, earning a 95 percent lifetime League of Conservation voting score. That's slightly ahead of Markey's 94 percent lifetime score. He has called for climate change to be declared a national emergency and even co-sponsored Markey’s Green New Deal.
But last year, Kennedy faced criticism for not bringing up global warming during his State of the Union rebuttal to President Trump. Perhaps sensing a weak spot, Markey challenged his competitors in the Senate race over the weekend to a debate focused on climate change during the week of Nov. 11.
Kennedy, like many Democrats, earned endorsements from the Sierra Club during each of his previous congressional runs. But Deb Pasternak, director of the environmental group’s Massachusetts chapter, said it is throwing its support behind Markey given his leadership on the issue.
“Kennedy is a climate fighter,” she said. “This is not about Joe Kennedy. This is about Ed Markey being the most important climate champion in the U.S. Senate.”
For Markey, the Sierra Club’s backing means its volunteers will knock on doors and call constituents — the kind of on-the-ground support on which low-turnout primary races can turn.
"That's where the Green New Deal might give him an edge," Vercellotti said. "He now has an activist following, an enthusiastic core of people who may want to do more than just show up to vote for him. They want to organize and work on his behalf. And in a close primary race, that can make a difference."
— Trump vs. California, part 60: The Golden State followed through on its threat to fight the Trump administration in court, filing a lawsuit against its decision to rescind the state’s right to set its own strict vehicle pollution standards. The suit, which argues the administration has overstepped its authority, is the latest round in the escalating fight between the state and Trump, a battle that has sewn divisions within the auto industry, Juliet Eilperin and I reported Friday.
- The Trump administration's case: "In taking back the waiver, Trump officials argued that only the federal government has the right to set fuel economy standards under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act and that California did not have the right to use its exemption under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon pollution linked to climate change because that ranks as a global problem."
- California's counter-argument: In the lawsuit, California "pointed to two 2007 federal court decisions as precedent that would bolster the state’s case in court. In both cases, Green Mountain Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie and Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep Inc. v. Goldstene, judges ruled that state limits on carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks did not violate existing federal law."
- By the numbers: This is the 60th time the state has sued the Trump administration. In addition to California, nearly two dozen other states joined the suit, along with New York City, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia.
Decades of L.A. smog that led to this: The smog in the city was once so bad, as one resident described, she couldn’t see the San Gabriel Mountains from her then-classroom in Compton. That was before progress helped by the state’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit automobile emissions, as The Post’s Reis Thebault reports. “With mountains on three sides and an ocean on the fourth, the region’s geography forms a bowl that pens in polluted air... It is the perfect petri dish for smog,” Thebault writes.
— “We will make them hear us”: Millions of young people marched the streets around the world to urge climate action ahead of the much-anticipated U.N. climate summit in what was one of the largest youth-led demonstrations ever, The Post’s Sarah Kaplan, Lauren Lumpkin and Brady Dennis report.
- The takeaway: “Despite a monumental turnout, it’s not clear whether the demonstrations can influence the global forces contributing to climate change or compel leaders to make the choices necessary to halt the world’s warming. But transformative change is precisely what the marchers demanded — including a swift shift from fossil fuels toward clean energy, halting deforestation, protecting the world’s oceans and embracing more sustainable agriculture,” they write.
- Where were the marches: The Friday strikes took pace in more than 150 countries, from Afghanistan to the small island nation of Kiribati; young people marched in Australia and in England and from Washington, D.C. to a one-man protest in Moscow.
- Protests continue in D.C. Monday: A coalition of climate activists plan to block streets and shut down the morning commute in Washington on Monday, a demonstration meant to send a message to “D.C.'s powerful political elite” just as the U.N. summit in New York begins, The Post’s Hannah Natanson reports.
— Meet the neighbors: The Bureau of Land Management’s new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo. will be in a four-story office building that also houses a number of oil company offices, including Chevron corporate office, branch of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and a Laramie Energy office, Eilperin and Steven Mufson report.
— Watchdog is investigating political appointees' review of public-records requests: The Interior Department’s inspector general will investigate the involvement of top officials at the agency in Interior’s policy for processing Freedom of Information Act requests, according to letters sent to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
- In the letters, Interior’s IG writes: “Our ongoing review will holistically examine the expanded FOIA process, including the involvement of senior officials.”
- The intrigue: Near the center of the probe is Daniel Jorjani, the agency’s deputy solicitor. The Senate is poised to confirm Jorjani as Interior's solicitor as early as this week.
— Dozens of companies join campaign to address climate change: A total of 87 major companies have promised to cut emissions ahead of the U.N. summit, according to We Mean Business, a coalition of advocacy groups. Among the newest members are the Swiss food giant Nestle, the French cosmetics company L’Oreal and the Finnish telecommunications firm Nokia. Nestle and L’Oreal agreed to try to slash their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, while others, including Nokia, stopped short of that goal, per Reuters.
— “The need for leadership has never been more urgent”: In an op-ed in The Post, former Secretary of State John Kerry called on India and China to step up their efforts to deal with the climate crisis. He cited the United Nation’s climate summit where nations will gather to pledge to renew their commitments to reduce the pollution they’re contributing to global warming. “China and India also might be ready to step up their efforts, which shouldn’t be a surprise given all they have to gain from improved air quality to economic competitiveness,” Kerry writes. “…But make no mistake, the true test for the two countries, and for all of us, arrives this week at the secretary-general’s summit."
— An above-average summer turning into an above-average fall: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fall outlook is warning about an exceptionally warm fall, The Post’s Matthew Cappucci reports. “And it looks as if that trend is set to continue. The majority of weather models depict a warmer-than-average pattern as we head into winter. A chunk of average or slightly below average temperatures may become briefly nestled over New England, but otherwise, warmth is favored virtually everywhere,” he writes.
- The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies holds a markup of an appropriations bill for the Interior Department, EPA and related agencies on Tuesday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearing on fossil fuel development on Tuesday.
- The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds hearings to examine fishery failures and improving disaster declaration and relief process on Wednesday.
- The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry holds a hearing on the National Forest System on Thursday.
- The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on forecasting and communicating extreme weather in a changing climate on Thursday.
— “We took hot girl summer too far”: These are some the best signs from global climate protests, via The Post’s Lateshia Beachum.