A Democratic Senate primary battle in Massachusetts is raising the hackles of climate activists, who feel that Rep. Joe Kennedy's challenge to Sen. Edward Markey is putting a target on one of the lawmakers most in touch with the danger of the climate crisis.
"Running against Ed Markey is running against the climate change movement," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told The Boston Globe in a story on the contest published Monday evening.
"I like Joe Kennedy," said Khanna. "I just don't know why he would choose to run against the climate change movement."
"Sen. Markey has been a leader who stood with our movement in the fight for the Green New Deal."
—Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement
The Sierra Club also expressed admiration for Kennedy to The Hill, but stressed the group is sticking with Markey for the primary.
"Joe Kennedy is a climate fighter, Joe Kennedy already co-sponsored the Green New Deal, so Joe Kennedy is someone we very much believe in and have endorsed in the past," the group's Massachusetts branch director Deb Pasternak said.
But, Patersnak said, Markey's leadership on the climate crisis "makes him such an important leader to the climate movement at this time" and thus the group's pick.
"This is really just about Sen. Markey being the climate champion," said Pasternak. "He's the most important climate leader in the U.S. Senate."
Markey is the lead Senate sponsor on the Green New Deal, the legislation he developed alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that has changed the national conversation on the climate crisis. That work, Ocasio-Cortez told reporters after endorsing Markey, is indispensable for the planet's future.
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"We do not have time to go through the learning curve," said Ocasio-Cortez.
Sunrise Movement is also backing Markey.
"We wanted to make it clear that Sen. Markey has been a leader who stood with our movement in the fight for the Green New Deal," the group's national political director Evan Weber told the Hill. "He has had our backs and we wanted to make sure we had his too."
"We do not have time to go through the learning curve."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Kennedy announced his challenge to Markey, a first-term Senator who previously served as a Boston-area Congressional representative from 1976 to 2013, on September 21. Kennedy, who has been a Congressman from southeastern Massachusetts since 2013, said in a campaign announcement video that he would fight for "a collective will to tackle the climate crisis so that we will have a planet that will survive for our kids and grandkids."
Reporting on Kennedy's investments, however, has led to skepticism about the challenger's commitment to solving the climate crisis. Finance watchdog Sludge on September 16 revealed Kennedy's stock portfolio has $1.75 million in fossil fuel investments.
Kennedy's holdings, which are contained in inherited family trusts, include Chevron stock worth between $100,001 and $250,000, ExxonMobil stock worth between $500,002 and $1,000,000, and $15,001 to $50,000 worth of stock in Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield services provider. Kennedy also owns $180,004 to $450,000 worth of stock in NextEra Energy, a utility company that owns a coal- and natural gas-burning Florida power company.
"It just confounds explanation to me, if he actually cares about the future of this planet, that he feels like it would be a good idea to launch a primary challenge against the guy who's leading on this issue," 350 Mass Action executive director Craig S. Altemose told the Globe.
"Seems like it's just a move that is primarily driven by ego and ambition instead of a thirst for justice," Altemose added.