After releasing his travel records, Sen. Ed Markey is defending the amount of time he spends in his Chevy Chase, Maryland home. It's a response to an attack from his primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, who accuses the veteran lawmaker of “absentee leadership.”
In Sunday night's debate with Kennedy, Markey promised to make his travel records available. Now he has, releasing them to WBUR and other news outlets. They show that from January 2017 through this past spring — a three-and-a-half-year period — Markey spent less than 40% of his days in Massachusetts. The rest of the time he was working in Washington and staying in his Maryland home, or traveling. At a campaign event in Medford on Monday, Markey defended spending so much time out of state.
“I think ultimately the question is going to be, did I deliver?” Markey said to a group of cheering supporters. “Did I stand up and fight for and deliver for these communities? And I have done that over and over again.”
Local officials at the Medford event gave Markey credit for, among other things, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal spending for the MBTA Green Line Extension.
But his travel records will probably continue to fuel the attacks by Kennedy. According to a Boston Globe analysis, the records show that Markey spent fewer nights in Massachusetts than any other member of the state's congressional delegation — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren last year, when she was running for president.
During Sunday's debate, Kennedy said it matters that Markey is away from the state so much.
"We need to have elected officials who are in fact hearing the concerns across our commonwealth and advocating for those voices, because if things were going as well as people in Washington thought they were, we wouldn't be here,” Kennedy said, raising a charge that Markey has faced in past elections.
“You have to be present to hear [those concerns]," he said.
But Markey says he is present, because he's from here, a point that he attempts to drive home in his latest campaign ad:
"This is where I live,” Markey says in the ad as he strides along the gritty streets of Malden, with his sleeves rolled up, wearing his white Nikes. “My father was a milkman. I drove an ice cream truck to pay for college. Lessons I learned here still drive me today. Don't be scared of the tough fights.”
Those tough fights, according to Markey, include sponsoring Medicare For All and the Green New Deal.
The ad makes clear where Markey is from and how it informs his progressive policies. It also shows how different his blue collar background is from Kennedy's world of privilege. But in a campaign between two people who agree on most major issues, Kennedy is hoping to convince voters that by spending so much time away from Massachusetts, the son of a milkman has become a creature of Washington.
This segment aired on July 28, 2020.