US Senator Edward J. Markey is in a tight race for re-election on Sept. 1 as he faces a vigorous challenge from a fellow Democrat. Nonetheless, he told the Reporter on Sunday, he is upbeat, pointing to a deep well of support in Dorchester and other city neighborhoods.
“Our campaign is in its fifth gear, and the response we’re getting is overwhelmingly positive,” Markey said in a phone interview. “The energy level is as high as I’ve ever seen in a campaign, except it’s now having to move in some instances online. The hundreds and thousands of people with whom I speak every week in my campaign gives me a very strong sense of the momentum we’ve built.”
Markey has amassed an impressive and diverse list of endorsements locally, including Mayor Martin Walsh and District Attorney Rachael Rollins. State Reps. Liz Miranda, Dan Cullinane, Dan Hunt, Russell Holmes, and Nika Elugardo are also in his corner. (City Councillor Ricardo Arroyo, who represents parts of Mattapan, endorsed Markey on July 23. His father, Felix A. Arroyo, has also endorsed the senator.)
“It’s an incredible array of grassroots support that we’ve been building and we do feel it everywhere across Dorchester and Mattapan and those great leaders are the ones who are building that support.”
He added: “I won 82 percent of delegates at the Democratic State Convention and my opponent won 18 percent. That was uniform across the entire city.”
Earlier this month, Markey appeared in Mattapan Square alongside US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who has not made an endorsement in the race, but has been closely aligned with him on a legislative package that focuses on transit equity. Markey has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a prominent ally in the Green New Deal, which he and the freshman congresswoman from New York rolled out last year.
In Mattapan, Markey touted his partnership with Pressley on their recently filed “Freedom to Move” legislation, which would allocate $5 billion in federal funds into a competitive grant program to offset fare revenues for transit agencies. It would also finance service upgrades, including bus stop improvements, redesigned routes, and transit-priority infrastructure.
Markey told the Reporter that he has also partnered with Pressley to push for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to add the Neponset River to a “priority” SuperFund site list, a move that could lead to new funds to clean up the river between Hyde Park and Lower Mills.
“There is a long industrial past… and combined with the current urbanization that continues in the areas, the Neponset is severely impaired,” said Markey. “The US Geological Survey found that PCB concentrations in the Neponset River are over 120 times greater than those collected from other urban rivers by the National Water Assessment program,” he added. “That’s an astounding number.”
Markey said that on July 1 the federal agency “determined this site is not going to be included on the national priority list for SuperFund designation in 2020, but will be considered in 2021. I am going to, as a member of the Environment Committee, work to make sure it’s on the list. I will get that done.”
Markey said he has also partnered with colleagues on legislation aimed at ending qualified immunity, reducing mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses, and “reinvesting in the communities that were most harmed by the war on drugs.”
He noted that “we are continuing to work to make sure that the issue of qualified immunity is an issue that is dealt with and dealt with soon and I’m also introducing legislation with Sen. Cory Booker called the Next Step Act.”
Markey said that he had worked successfully to secure funding for Community Health Centers in Dorchester and Mattapan during the pandemic.
“I think there’s a reason why these local leaders are supporting me in this race. I’ve worked very hard for the community,” he said. “The community is on my mind constantly and I really care about the people in Mattapan and Dorchester and they have really been great to me over the course of this campaign.”
Joel Richards, a BPS teacher who lives in Dorchester, is among those who have signed on to help Markey’s re-election bid.
“This year and these last two years, I’ve become more of a supporter as a father, a teacher, a Dorchester resident, and a Black person in America,” said Richards. “There are certain key things he supports that I know are for the well being of all those things I mentioned.”
He pointed to Markey’s commitment to environmental issues with the Green New Deal and ending qualified immunity to achieve “actual police reform.”
“He’s going up against a name that has a lot of sway in Massachusetts and gives people very positive feelings,” said Richards. “The best thing about Ed Markey is that he thinks ahead and he thinks about people and that goes a long way for a neighborhood like Dorchester that needs long-term people focused on solutions.”
Ann M. Walsh, a Lower Mills resident, called herself a “lightweight volunteer” in Markey’s campaign. “I’ve been doing what we’re calling social phone banking, meaning I talk to people that I actually know in the community about Ed Markey and making sure they know Sept. 1 is the primary election. With everything else going on, that date could slide past people.”
Walsh said she supports Markey for his longtime commitment to progressive issues.
“He’s been very strong and out front on reform around criminal justice inequities, showing support for [Black Lives Matter]. He has worked with Ayanna Pressley on reducing qualified immunity, which is super important locally to the communities he represents,” she said.
“In many cases he is very strategic about putting his name on things and being out front in a way to push the conversations and he lays down legislation that people have to respond to with clear objectives and goals,” said Walsh.
“He’s also partnering with the right people and pushing on those issues,” she said. “I really appreciate that he focuses on the things that he focuses on and continually pushes them.”
Walsh noted that Rep. Kennedy “doesn’t bring a starkly different life experience and perspective and set of policy ideas than Markey. So why would I give up an incredibly competent senator and take someone junior, who’s not showing revolutionary thinking?”