GREAT BARRINGTON — The Friday afternoon sun was beating down mercilessly, and the only escape from the heat was beneath one of the trees along the border of the lawn.
But, when Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ed Markey was handed the microphone, a group of about 50 listeners crept out of the shadows behind Great Barrington Town Hall to hear him speak.
The senator stopped in Great Barrington on Friday as part of his "Leads and Delivers" reelection campaign around the state. He also made stops in Park Square in Pittsfield and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.
Markey mostly talked about the policies he has had a hand in during his time in office, highlighting, in particular, "Medicare for All," the Green New Deal and other climate initiatives, and his efforts to expand broadband and Wi-Fi access for students across America.
Markey, who has served as senator since 2013, is facing a tough Democratic primary Sept. 1 against U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who represents Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.
While addressing the crowds, Markey expressed his intention to push for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal during his next term. He said he believes things are changing and people are becoming more progressive than they were when the bills first were introduced.
"Liberals are usually right, but too soon," Markey said.
Great Barrington Select Board member Leigh Davis pointed out the Berkshires' history as the birthplace of NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois and the location of the Shays' Rebellion post-Revolutionary War uprising. People in the Berkshires "have a history of standing up for values" just like Markey, Davis said.
Markey, too, drew on those histories and said the Berkshires have "a revolutionary soul."
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, said Markey was a symbol of "consistent service." She pointed to how his office aided in tracking constituents who were overseas when the coronavirus travel restrictions were announced.
Pittsfield City Council member Patrick Kavey said that while Markey has had a hand in a lot of national legislation, "he continues to show up for Massachusetts."
Following Markey along on his stops was a man with a large sign balancing in the bed of his white pickup truck that read, "Ed, release your travel records." The man could be heard repeating the phrase through a megaphone at several points during the day.
In the past, Markey has been criticized for not spending enough time in the state. The senator was raised in Malden, but he primarily lives in Chevy Chase, Md.
After Sunday's debate, during which he was criticized on the topic again, Markey released a few years of his travel records. A Boston Globe analysis found that from June 2018 to May 2020, Markey spent less time in Massachusetts than any other member of the delegation.
When asked about the issue Friday, Markey said "I deliver" for the people of Massachusetts and that he fights for every community. He pointed out that he is near the top of the list of all senators and House members in the total number of bills and laws passed.
"I do the work," Markey said.
Monica Ryan, of Lee, was at the event in Park Square with a sign that read "No dump in Lee," a reference to the Housatonic River cleanup deal the General Electric Co. struck with the Environmental Protection Agency that includes constructing a dumpsite for toxic polychlorinated biphenyl sediment near Lee. Ryan said she wanted the town to vote on the deal and feels that it was done behind closed doors.
"Markey needs to step up," she said.
Sheffield Select Board Chair Rene Wood lauded Markey's progressive record and addressed the age difference between the candidates. Markey is 74, and Kennedy is 39, an age gap that has come up frequently throughout the race.
"Anyone who says you're 74 and, therefore, you should step aside does not know those of us who are 74," Wood said.
Auric Enchill, a recent college graduate and small-business owner in Pittsfield, said that age is not an important issue to him as a voter.
"What's important is the age of your ideas," Enchill told The Eagle. "Markey has youthful and progressive ideas."
Caroline White can be reached at email@example.com or at 563-513-1065.