Bolstered by an energized climate movement, small-dollar donors, and support from prominent progressive lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Green New Deal champion Sen. Ed Markey on Tuesday fended off a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III, whose name recognition and late endorsement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were ultimately insufficient to topple the popular Massachusetts incumbent.
"There will be no peace, no justice, and no prosperity unless we stop the march to climate destruction."
—Sen. Ed Markey
Declaring victory Tuesday night with a 10-point lead over Kennedy, Markey, 74, shouted out the young voters and activists who fueled his campaign with on-the-ground organizing and social media efforts, including the production of viral ads that built enthusiasm for the incumbent senator and laid the groundwork for his comeback win.
"This campaign has always been about the young people of this country," Markey said in a speech to supporters in his hometown of Malden. "You are our future. And thank you for believing in me, because I believe in you."
Touting his support for the Green New Deal, the signature issue of the senator's reelection bid, Markey declared that "there will be no peace, no justice, and no prosperity unless we stop the march to climate destruction."
"This is a matter of life and death. The very future of our civilization depends upon it," Markey continued. "There is no time for simply 'doing what we can.' There is no time for compromise on the existential threat to our time. We must pass a Green New Deal... The time to be timid is past. The age of incrementalism is over. Now is our moment to think big, to build big, to be big. This is what this election is all about."
The Sunrise Movement—the first national organization to endorse the senator's reelection campaign—celebrated Markey's victory as a testament to the growing power of youth-led climate activism in Massachusetts and across the United States. The group said its volunteers made 250,000 calls on Markey's behalf, on top of directing and producing a striking Green New Deal ad that racked up four million views.
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"From the outset, we worked with the campaign to put climate change at the center of this race," Evan Weber, political director for the Sunrise Movement, said in a statement. "As we gained momentum, the establishment clearly felt threatened and sent Nancy Pelosi to throw in a last-minute endorsement to boost funds for Kennedy's big money campaign."
"Despite this establishment opposition," added Weber, "we won a clear victory tonight—and with that, no one should underestimate the power of the climate movement to elect and defend our champions in Congress."
Before tonight, a Kennedy had never lost an election in Massachusetts. But even a 100 year dynasty can not overcome the Green New Deal.
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) September 2, 2020
In a tweet late Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez—who joined Markey in co-authoring the Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress last year—hailed the senator's win as a "victory for the progressive movement, for 21st century policy, and for the Green New Deal."
"Thank you to every single voter, supporter, organizer, grassroots donor, and everyday person who helped make this happen," said the New York Democrat, who slammed Pelosi's decision to back Kennedy against Markey as hypocritical, given her approval of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's (DCCC) policy of kneecapping progressives who challenge incumbents.
"On a personal note, when I first got to Congress the reception I got in many spaces was very chilly," Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a separate tweet. "Ed Markey wasn't afraid. He offered his expertise and partnership. He wasn't scared of big policy and didn't use kid gloves. It's great to watch him overcome the odds and win tonight."