In visit to Berkshires, Kennedy picks up Harrington's endorsement
PITTSFIELD — In his second visit to the Berkshires since launching his campaign for U.S. Senate in September, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III acknowledged Saturday morning that his voting record might be largely similar to that of Sen. Edward Markey.
And if he is elected to unseat Markey, Kennedy said, he intends to fully represent his constituents by ensuring that their voices are heard and play a role in policy-making.
"The challenge we face, I think on a lot of levels in Massachusetts and around the country, is that so many people feel like they are left out and left behind," Kennedy said at Barrington Stage Company's Wolfson Center. "And you hear that an awful lot when you come out to Western Massachusetts."
Kennedy joined Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington for tours of Tapestry Health and 18 Degrees in North Adams before meeting with supporters at the Pittsfield meet-and-greet event.
Harrington, who has been an outspoken supporter of criminal justice reform inside and outside her office, officially endorsed Kennedy at the theater. The room was peppered with local Democrats, including state Sen. Adam Hinds.
"We need more than partners in our federal government. We need a champion," Harrington said. "And the reason why I'm here today is because I very much believe that, in Joe Kennedy, we have the champion we need "
Harrington said that her office is committed to stop criminalizing people with mental illness, substance use disorder and the poor. Instead, she said, she is focusing her resources on prosecuting domestic violence cases and holding dangerous offenders accountable.
Kennedy said that most of the cases he prosecuted as a young lawyer at the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office, and later in Middlesex County, either were drug- or domestic violence-related.
"At its core, both of those are about power," Kennedy said. "It's about who our society decides to protect, and how."
In order to reduce the number of those crimes flowing into courts, Kennedy realized then that he should be working "upstream" in policy-making, where he could be a voice for people in the margins, he said.
For the past seven years, Kennedy has represented the 4th Congressional District of Massachusetts, which stretches from the Boston suburbs to cities along the South Coast.
"There is no time in modern American history like today, where folks in need of a little bit of help have been more targeted, disenfranchised, criminalized and marginalized than we have now by the president of the United States," Kennedy said.
Kennedy, 39, rattled off a list of injustices, including statistics of homelessness and hunger, high costs of living, rates of incarceration and maternal mortality, and a lack of access to mental or behavioral health treatment.
Half the people seeking help for mental illness will not get it, he said.
Two months ago, while visiting a hospital in Attleboro, Kennedy met an 83-year-old man who waited five days for a treatment bed. He later met an 8-year-old boy who spent 150 hours in the emergency room for the same reason.
"I believe we can do better," he said. "I believe the richest and most powerful nation in the world is capable of caring for that kid."
Markey, 73, served 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in a special election in 2013.
After wrapping up in Pittsfield, Kennedy continued his tour of Western Massachusetts by visiting a veterans center in Holyoke and hosting another meet-and-greet event, in Northampton.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at email@example.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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