CHELMSFORD — Less than two weeks before Massachusetts Democrats and unenrolled voters decide who they ‘d like to stand for them in the U.S. Senate, residents from throughout Greater Lowell and North Central Massachusetts appear split in their support of the long-time veteran, Edward Markey and his challenger Rep. Joseph Kennedy III.
The winner of the primary will face off against the winner of the Republican primary, which pits Shiva Ayyadurai against Kevin O’Connor.
A Sun reporter interviewed more than 20 registered voters over the last several days. Simultaneously, Markey stumped in Lowell Wednesday and Kennedy in Dracut Wednesday night. Kennedy was due back in Chelmsford over the weekend.
The election is Sept. 1.
Some residents, like Keith O’Brien of Chelmsford, don’t know enough about both candidates to make a check-mark on a ballot.
“I’ve been keeping up with the race and I plan on voting, but I’m still undetermined,” O’Brien said on Sunday. “I want more information on both guys. I want to know about their stances on economics, how they feel about the handling of the coronavirus and schools reopening.”
O’Brien is not alone in wanting more from the candidates. Multiple residents in northeastern towns admitted to having not paid close attention to the election or had only seen a handful of ads by the candidates alerting them of their stances. Because of this, many residents are mixed on whom to support or have been so busy with the coronavirus pandemic and other stuff that they wouldn’t say who they’re interested in.
Patty Roy of Lowell, for instance, said she was “50/50” on both candidates. She found Kennedy’s family history to be both a qualifier for him but also a drawback seeing how local gossip pegs the Kennedy family as corrupt. As for Markey, she saw the current senator’s lengthy tenure as a positive and a negative.
“I think they go hand-in-hand with each other,” Roy said. “I know that my vote counts but if I don’t know a lot about it, I don’t want to offer my opinion on something based on hearsay.”
Lim Ou, another resident of Lowell, couldn’t really say who he’d be voting for as he wasn’t aware of either candidate. He also noted many of his friends haven’t shown interest in the election either.
“My vote is up in the air right now,” Ou added. “I want to do more research on the candidates but everything has been so hectic right now.”
Other residents were more keen on saying who they won’t be voting for rather than who they would be voting for. Ayer resident Linda Tsinidis, for example, felt stronger about not letting Markey regain his position than supporting Kennedy.
“I just don’t like that Markey has been in for so long,” Tsinidis said. “I don’t like old people in politics, it’s about young, young, young. If I had to vote, I’d vote Kennedy because he’s young.”
Andria Fuccione of Groton felt the same, in that Markey had been politician for too long, though she had seen more signs supporting the incumbent on lawns in the neighborhood than the younger challenger.
“I just feel as though so many people have been in positions for so long and it’s the same junk over and over,” Fuccione said.
Lorraine Bellessa, another Groton resident, had a more thorough reasoning for her “leaning” towards Kennedy as a pick while still wanting to do more research on the challenger.
“I consider myself a moderate liberal and I think his views are the same as mine,” Bellessa said. “I want compromise in the Senate and to have both sides agree on issues. I think Kennedy is more willing to do that than Markey.”
Angela Paff of Townsend had multiple reasons for her conflicted feelings towards both candidates. Though she said she’d “probably” vote for Kennedy, she added that she’s not a fan of him or his family. But she had no problem admitting to being even less of a fan of Markey for multiple reasons, ranging from his age to his alliance with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to his “horrible” voting record on issues.
“It’s time for a change-over in the Senate,” Paff said. “I’d vote for Kennedy just to get new blood and new ideas. The number of years that Markey has been involved is insane and he’s not aspiring to do more.”
Though Markey’s age and lengthy time in office are criticisms to some, it’s a benefit to others.
Steve Conte of Chelmsford said he’d “probably” vote for the incumbent strictly for his time at work.
“I’m not sure Kennedy has the experience,” Conte said. “Markey just has more seasoning in government.”
Brian Keating of Pepperell also admitted to “leaning towards Markey,” thanks to his support of the Green New Deal, which he introduced with Ocasio-Cortez last year, and standing firm against right-wing extremists.
“I’m a progressive and I believe he’s holding the line as best as he can,” Keating said. “I would rather have his experience than a new, inexperienced guy. I’m sure Kennedy is a fine guy, but I just think this is the wrong race for him to jump into.”
Jacob Solon of Ayer also saluted Markey for introducing the Green New Deal, recognizing the environment is a “flagship issue” to address. Solon said Kennedy has offered “no idea” of what he stands for as a candidate and has just kept pushing his family name as a main platform.
Colleen McAlpine of Lowell also supports Markey for his environmentally-friendly position.
“I have a pretty greenhouse so knowing someone in a government position that cares about the environment is a big deal for me,” she said. “I want my kids to experience the green beauty of Massachusetts.”
Anna Shapiro, another Ayer resident, admitted to already voting for Markey via absentee ballot for similar reasons and for a lack of detail on Kennedy’s stances on certain issues.
“Kennedy has been running on, ‘I’m a Kennedy and I’m new’ though we don’t know his ideas,” Shapiro said. “A lot of my friends from college and from home are environmentalists, so Markey with the Green New Deal is important to us. He also does a lot for commuters, which is important to us given that we live near a commuter rail. Markey’s record and what he’s done speaks a lot more to me.”