Ed Markey credits young supporters in Senate primary victory speech

"This election is an undeniable mandate for action."

MALDEN, MA - SEPTEMBER 01: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) speaks at a primary election night event at Malden Public Library on September 1, 2020 in Malden, Massachusetts. Sen. Markey won the primary race over challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. (Photo by Allison Dinner/Getty Images)
Sen. Ed Markey speaks at a primary election night event Tuesday at the Malden Public Library in Malden. –Allison Dinner / Getty Images

Sen. Ed Markey pulled off the unprecedented Tuesday — defeating a Kennedy in Massachusetts.

And during his primary victory speech Tuesday night, the 74-year-old senator gave credit to the young progressives who powered his campaign at the ballot box, over the phones, and — perhaps most of all — in ebullient, meme-filled online organizing.

“Thank you for believing in me, because I believe in you,” Markey said Tuesday night outside the public library in his hometown of Malden, along with his wife, Susan Blumenthal, and his now-iconic Nike Air Revolution basketball shoes.

“If we all keep believing together, we just might get my sneakers to last another eight weeks on the campaign trail,” Markey joked.

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The humor, however, underplayed a seriously monumental accomplishment. Initially down by as much as double-digits in the polls, the longtime Washington, D.C., legislator climbed back to a win over challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who conceded just two hours after the polls closed. Despite the hard-fought race, Markey said Tuesday night that he remained committed to talking and working with Kennedy “to make the lasting, meaningful change that I know that we are both committed to.”

But he mainly put the spotlight on the “Markeyverse” that backed his campaign. Markey was endorsed early in the race by the Sunrise Movement, a national youth-led climate action group, which cited his co-authorship of the Green New Deal and long track record of environmental advocacy. By the end of the race, polls showed that Markey had turned his deficit among young voters into a double-digit lead.

Markey asserted that “no solution to any challenge will be successful” unless climate change is addressed. And he argued that his primary win reaffirmed that need.

“There will be no peace, no justice, and no prosperity unless we stop the march to climate destruction,” Markey said. “This is a matter of life and death. The very future of our civilization depends upon it. There is no time for simply doing what we can. There is no time for compromise on the existential threat on our time. We must pass a Green New Deal.”

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Markey noted that his campaign took “unapologetically progressive stances” on all the major issues in the race, from health care reform to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kennedy cited the urgency of addressing systemic problems as the reason he was challenging Markey. But the senator also embraced more progressive solutions than he had before to ensure he couldn’t be outflanked.

“The age of incrementalism is over,” Markey said. “Now is our moment to think big.”

Of course, Democrats will first need to regain political power to pass those agenda items. And while Kennedy had criticized Markey for not doing enough to support past Democratic candidates, Markey pledged Tuesday to work to help the party defeat President Donald Trump and retake control of the Senate.

“This election is an undeniable mandate for action, and it is our young people who will lead the way,” Markey said.

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