Incumbent Sen. Ed Markey and challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III are squaring off in a Democratic primary race for a U.S. Senate seat that culminates on Tuesday. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with both Markey and Kennedy on Saturday, as both were out campaigning. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: Thank you for being with us today. You're an incumbent. The story today is that you're ahead in the polls. The analysis is that next week, turnout in the cities — many cases, disenfranchized communities [who are] less likely to vote by mail — could decide this race. Is that your belief?
Sen. Ed Markey: We're talking [to] all communities across the Commonwealth, including communities of color. And we've been doing that right from the very beginning. And we're going to continue that all the way through Tuesday. We have had a universal campaign in every community right from the beginning. And we're looking forward to primary day because we think we've done the work in every community, including communities of color.
Mathieu: Thousands of people are marching across the country this weekend from Washington to here in Boston. We heard a lot about racial justice in the address that you just made. There's a bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, [that] has passed the House [but] has not moved in the Senate. You're talking about qualified immunity. Senator, as a legislator, how can you fix this problem?
Markey: There's only one way to fix it. We need to elect President Joe Biden. Get rid of Donald Trump as the president. Get rid of Mitch McConnell as the Senate majority leader. Then we can put justice on the floor of the Senate on Jan. 21, 2021. Justice is on the ballot this year. And we have a chance to have the revolution that just rids us of this racist denial of the injustice that exists in our country. And I think that the soul of the country is on fire. But our communities of color are rising to the challenge, in partnership with all of the other communities who see that injustice. And I think we're going to have our ability next year to be able to ensure that we rectify these historic injustices.
Mathieu: Lastly, Senator, I just asked Congressman Kennedy the same question. After a couple of weeks of really tough rhetoric — you guys have had a personal campaign, a lot of stuff has been said — I just wonder personally: Have you felt humbled at any point in this campaign, and what have you learned over the last couple of weeks of running?
Markey: Well, I feel humble every day. The ministers who just spoke on my behalf, [Suffolk County District Attorney] Rachael Rollins, [Rep.] Liz Miranda — it's humbling to have people of their stature standing behind you. It's humbling to know that they have my back. And I'm actually, each day feeling that I have to take a step back to kind of absorb that wonderful support that I've been receiving. And then I have to step up and try to earn it, by what I do on the campaign trail and what I'm promising and I will do on the floor of the Senate.
Mathieu: Senator Markey, thank you. We'll be watching for you on Tuesday night. Thank you, sir.
Markey: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Mathieu: Thanks for talking to me, Congressman, it's good to see you. I only have a few questions and you're on your way, I know. Let me ask you: On the eve here, almost, of this election, do you believe the polls? Are you the underdog in this race, in the final days of the campaign?
Rep. Joe Kennedy III: Joe, look, I've been out [and] about all over our Commonwealth and the response is great. We're excited about making the case to voters across Massachusetts over the course of the next couple of days and excited for what's gonna happen on Tuesday. As you know, I've got a long record of trying to make sure that people get access to the ballot box. And I believe those voices count. And I think what we've — as I've gotten out and about across the Commonwealth and the reason why I got in this race, is that I think that there've been far too many people that have not gotten the representation that they need and that they deserve out of our senator. And as I have traveled to the Lawrences and the Lowells, and the Fall Rivers and New Bedfords, and the Springfields and Pittsfields, and Worcesters, and literally dozens of places in between, that's where the enthusiasm is coming from. That's where the desire for change is manifest. And that's where people are fighting and scraping and clawing to try to make ends meet, to care for their kids, to keep a roof over their head. And I think they deserve a government to fight as hard for them as they're fighting for their families. And I'm excited to see what happens on Tuesday.
Mathieu: I'm sure you saw, Congressman, thousands marched on the National Mall at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend. Hundreds, if not thousands, are marching in Boston and other cities around Massachusetts this weekend to call for racial justice. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act appears to be going nowhere on Capitol Hill. If you go to the Senate, what role will you play in helping to make this better for America?
Kennedy: So, Joe, as you know, it already passed the House of Representatives. The challenge is with a Republican-led Senate and this president. I think one of the big differences between myself and the incumbent is recognizing that voting for a bill, however good, isn't gonna be good enough if there's still political obstacles in the way. That's why you have to go out and fight for that change. That's why I was around the country helping to flip the House of Representatives so that we could do things like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. That we could, in fact, pass it. That we could, in fact, demand that change and keep pushing for it. And that hasn't been the way that Senator Markey views this job, or, I think, understands this job. I categorically do not believe that it is enough to sit there and say, 'Hey, I voted for [the] bill. My responsibility in this is done.' There's too much need. There's too much pain. There are too many people that are suffering and too much potential that we are leaving untapped in this country. That's why I got in this race and it's why I think we'll be successful on Tuesday.
Mathieu: Congressman, you've met with thousands of people around the state on the campaign. This race has become, I'm going to guess, more vitriolic than you planned for. It's become very personal. Elbows have been high. I wonder, lastly, how personally you may have been humbled in this campaign and what you've learned about yourself.
Kennedy: Look, politics is a humbling profession, no doubt. And obviously, sometimes those critiques come in and they can be frustrating and disappointing. But, Joe, I got in this race because I believed in the talent and the potential and the commitment of people across Massachusetts. And if anything, over the course of the last 11 months, that has been solidified. You see people that are fighting every single day for their families, for their communities, for the future. And just even in times of enormous struggle, that are giving everything they've got to friend and stranger alike. I think they deserve a government that's gonna do the same, that's going to match that commitment and match that urgency. And so if that means you've got to take a couple critiques and some broadsides with it, so be it. I knew that jumping into a primary would ruffle some feathers. I believe our people are worth that fight. I believe it's worth that struggle. And I believe that whatever critiques are going to come my way, go out to the Lawrences and the Pittsfields, and the Lowells and the Fall Rivers, and talk to folks about what they're confronting and how much they're given and how hard they're working and the uncertainty they still feel. And if you believe that our government can do something about it — any U.S. senator certainly can — then I certainly think that's worth an anonymous tweet on Twitter.
Mathieu: Congressman, thanks for answering my questions. Good luck on the trail for the rest of this. We'll be watching Tuesday night. Come see us Wednesday morning.
Kennedy: I look forward to it, my friend. Thank you.