Businessman Steve Pemberton spent his childhood bouncing through the foster care system in New Bedford. Now he hopes to take that experience to the halls of Congress.
The Democratic primary for US Senate in 2020 will get another entrant today with Pemberton planning to launch his campaign in his hometown on the South Coast. He is the second Democrat who has decided to take on US Sen. Ed Markey, who spent almost 37 years in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 2013.
“I don’t see this as a race against Ed Markey,” Pemberton said in an interview with the News Service ahead of his campaign kickoff.
“We live in a representative democracy and while I’m keenly aware that seats have become associated with the office holder, my campaign is about electing a lived experience and a perspective that I don’t see in the Senate today,” he said.
Since U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s successful challenge last year to long-time Congressman Michael Capuano, incumbents across Massachusetts running for re-election are finding that money, name recognition and stature are no longer enough to ward off potential challengers.
Pemberton, 51, enters the Senate race a day after Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse announced he would mount a primary challenge to US Rep. Richard Neal, the dean of the state Congressional delegation. US Reps. Joseph Kennedy, Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton also have drawn early primary opponents.
Pemberton said he hopes to appeal to voters frustrated with the gridlock in Washington and his campaign will focus, in large part, on income inequality and the problems that stem from that, including access to higher education, addiction and incarceration.
“I think the US Senate for me is the place you can have the most impact, and ability to bring attention to issues, the very kind of issues that had such an adverse impact on my life,” he said. “I very much reflect the human toll of policies that don’t work. I had to live that and I had to navigate that.”