Rep. Joe Kennedy III visits Hope & Olive after announcing Senate candidacy

  • Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who announced his intentions to campaign for U.S. Senate Saturday morning, meets with supporters at Hope & Olive in Greenfield later that night. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who announced his intentions to campaign for U.S. Senate Saturday morning, meets with supporters at Hope & Olive in Greenfield later that night. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who announced his intentions to campaign for U.S. Senate Saturday morning, meets with supporters at Hope & Olive in Greenfield later that night. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Supporters of Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who announced his intentions to campaign for U.S. Senate Saturday morning, unload signs in front of Hope & Olive in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • From left to right, Russell Bixby, Marguerite Noga and Katherine Martini pose with Joe Kennedy III, who is wearing white in the middle. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Sen. Ed Markey speaks at a forum about the Green New Deal held at Northampton High School in 2018. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Sen. Ed Markey speaks at a forum about the Green New Deal held at Northampton High School in 2018. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • During a campaign swing through Greenfield in 1952 when he was a Congressman running for U.S. Senate, John F. Kennedy, center, was flanked by, from left, state Rep. Joseph Cullen, D-Greenfield, with Phyllis O’Hara, Sebastian Ruggeri and Judge Samuel Blassberg in front of Greenfield’s Washington Hall. File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/22/2019 1:55:20 PM

GREENFIELD — John Stobierski, chair of Deerfield’s Democratic Committee, remembers when Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy II was the keynote speaker for his predecessor Frank “Chik” Cackowski’s retirement ceremony in the 1990s at the Polish American Citizens Club.

On Saturday night, Stobierski welcomed another Kennedy to Franklin County — the former politician’s son, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, 38, as he launched a Senate primary campaign against Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., 73, who has served in Congress for more than 40 years.

The younger Kennedy made a formal announcement outlining his political ambitions that morning at the East Boston Social Center and then embarked on a day-long tour across the state, making stops in Salem, Dracut, Lawrence, Fitchburg and Greenfield. Locally, he met in a closed-door meeting with members of the Franklin County Opioid Task Force at the Franklin County Justice Center. After, he crossed the street to speak with constituents at Hope & Olive restaurant.

Notably, Kennedy made no mention of Markey, his new political rival. Rather, he focused on the issues America is facing.

“The biggest challenge we are confronting right now — yes, it is Donald Trump — but it’s also the system that allowed 62 million Americans to believe that Donald Trump was the answer to their problems,” Kennedy said during an improv speech. “You can fight back against Donald Trump all you want, but if you do not address the underlying fractures, the fissures, the daily oppression that so many Americans feel, then you’re going to miss the forest through the trees. You’ll fight the battle and lose the war. And that (addressing the problems), I think, is what our government needs to do. That’s what a U.S. Senator needs to do, and that begins, folks, with showing up.”

Kennedy, who is married to Lauren Anne Birchfield and has two children, is rising heir to the Kennedy family’s political dynasty.

As well as being the son of a former State House member, he is the grandson of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and the great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, who served in the Senate for nearly 50 years. The Brighton native graduated from Harvard Law School in 2009 and served in the Peace Corps for a few years before working as a prosecutor on Cape Cod.

When former Mass. Congressman Barney Frank announced his retirement in 2012, Kennedy stepped into his political seat. He has held the position in Congress ever since. Following the 2016 presidential election, Kennedy was selected to deliver the Democratic National Committee’s rebuff.

That Kennedy would make a stop in rural Franklin County on the same day he announced his Senate primary campaign in Boston came as a surprise for many of those in attendance at Hope & Olive.

“He’s not in Springfield, he’s not in Holyoke, he’s not even in Northampton. He’s in Greenfield,” said Marguerite Noga, of Charlemont. “I am really impressed. Of all the places he could be in Mass., he’s here in Greenfield.”

For others like Stobierski, it made sense.

“Joe is continuing the Kennedy family’s legacy of commitment to Franklin County,” Stobierski said as, behind him, the sitting congressman shook hands and posed for photos with well-wishers. “The Kennedy family, back in the 50s, always had a soft spot for Franklin County.”

According to John Merrigan, a co-founder of the Opioid Task Force and register of probate, it’s not the first time a Kennedy has made a local appearance.

Through a chance meeting during World War II, local attorney Sebastian “Busty” J. Ruggeri befriended John F. Kennedy, according to a 2013 Greenfield Recorder article. While serving as his Western Massachusetts campaign manager, Ruggeri got to know the entire Kennedy family and occasionally invited them to his home on James Street. During his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in 1952, John F. Kennedy toured Wilson’s Department Store. Three years before being elected as president, he attended the dedication of the new Greenfield High School in 1958, based on reports published in the Recorder-Gazette.

“Back in the 60s to the 70s, this county was bedrock Republican. All of it,” Merrigan said while waiting outside Saturday to get a photograph with the congressman. Ruggeri and the Kennedy family’s efforts “helped to turn that tide,” he continued. “JFK was out here. Teddy was here in the 60s. As a result, there’s a lot of loyalty to the Kennedy family in this region.

“Many are here,” Merrigan added, gesturing inside.

The Hope Street restaurant, which has an occupancy capacity of 125 people, was packed with Saturday’s dinner crowd and loyal Kennedy supporters such as Russell Bixby, of Bernardston, who made the trip with his daughter, Katherine Martini, of Greenfield.

“I’m here to support the name — the name that Republicans fear more than any other in the Democratic party — that being ‘Kennedy,’” Bixby said, noting that he is a member of his town’s Democratic Committee. Besides the name, Bixby said he’s “impressed” with Kennedy’s poise and demeanor under pressure.

“He is effective as a House member. … As a senator, he could occupy a stronger position in the House,” Bixby said.

Looking at the campaign trail ahead, Noga said she’s excited to hear Kennedy’s perspectives on a range of issues and to see how the political race unfolds.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

The Democratic primary election will be held on Sept. 15, 2020. The general election will be held Nov. 3, 2020. In addition to Kennedy, Democrats Shannon Liss-Riordan and Steve Pemberton and Republican Shiva Ayyadurai have also taken out papers challenging the incumbent Markey’s Senate seat, according to Ballotpedia, an election information publication.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 276.




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