Kennedy Connects With New Bedford [OPINION]
New Bedford is important. The SouthCoast region is important. And the needs of our region must be prioritized by our Senate leadership. That’s the message Congressman Joe Kennedy III emphatically delivered during his city-wide tour of New Bedford on Sunday.
Kennedy started at the Dartmouth Street Shop & Shop, greeted by former Mayor Scott Lang, City Councillors Ian Abreu, Maria Giesta, Brian Gomes, Scott Lima, and City Council President Joe Lopes – all of whom, along with Councillors Hugh Dunn and Derek Baptiste, have thrown their support behind Kennedy in his run for U.S. Senate.
When Mayor Lang was asked why he’s endorsed Kennedy, he replied, "Because Joe Kennedy cares about New Bedford.”
“He will be here. He supports the people of New Bedford. He supports the local fishing industry. He understands what a gateway city needs in order to prosper," Lang said.
To the former mayor’s point on fishing, I spoke with Kennedy a few weeks ago about our shoreline economy in person at New Bedford’s Pier 3, and then on-air the following day. He spoke fluently about the issues regarding the local fishing industry, understanding that as the highest-earning fishing port in America, it deserves much more attention than it’s currently being offered.
At Stop & Stop, Kennedy stopped in for campaign provisions and spoke with the workers before taking questions with the local Latinx media. Kennedy's fluency in Spanish, thanks to his time in the Peace Corps, has been paramount in his ability to effectively communicate with the Commonwealth’s Latinx communities. This was demonstrated later in the tour when he stumbled upon a barbecue held by a local Puerto Rican family in the West End. He spoke to them in Spanish and was even offered some of their cuisine.
Afterward, Kennedy was joined on Acushnet Avenue by Billy Sylvia and Kevin Cormier, President and Vice President, respectively, of Local 841, the New Bedford firefighters union. They spoke about the issues the firefighters are facing due to the COVID-19 budget fallout as they walked toward Engine 8, the soon-to-be closed North End fire station. Upon arrival, Kennedy was met by a large, raucous crowd of supporters chanting “Let’s go, Joe!” as he greeted the firefighters and toured the station.
Addressing the crowd at Engine 8, Kennedy squared the blame on situations such as fire station closures on a lack of leadership in the upper chamber of Congress to pass the Heroes Act.
“There’s over $1trillion that is sitting on the desk of Senators in Washington D.C.," Kennedy said. “Money that can come here and make sure that we don’t have to compromise on public safety.”
Kennedy observed that as he travels the Commonwealth, he finds that these issues are not unique to New Bedford, and that’s why he’s in this race.
“It’s about communities from New Bedford, to Gloucester, to Pittsfield, to Springfield, to Boston that deserve leadership in the U.S. Senate from folks that will be here and folks that will fight for you, every single damn day," he said. "Because if you don’t, you get these choices. And no one, no one, should be trying to compromise public safety.”
After the Engine 8 rally, Kennedy stopped at Monte Park in the West End, once again accompanied by Lang, Gomes, and Lima, and met with Councillor Baptise, longtime civil rights activist Buddy Andrade and other local leaders in the Cape Verdean community. They walked through the West End discussing how the federal government can help their neighborhoods prosper.
People in West End neighborhoods seemed to remember the Kennedys fondly.
“We have to get this guy elected to the Senate, so he can come down and help us all the time," Lang remarked.
“Like his Uncle Ted?” Andrade asked enthusiastically.
“Exactly," replied Lang.
As Councilor Baptiste introduced Kennedy to neighborhood residents, one of them exclaimed, “Your great uncle was the best president ever – besides Obama! You got my vote.”
Covering Kennedy’s four-hour tour of the city, one thing became abundantly clear: New Bedford and the SouthCoast are Kennedy Country.
Kennedy has done more than just visit this region. He’s made a meaningful and lasting engagement with the members of our community, an engagement our current Senate leadership has not only failed to do but has refused to do. It’s why the overwhelming majority of New Bedford’s elected leaders are putting their support behind Kennedy for Senate.
On Monday, toward the end of WBSM’s Chris McCarthy Show, a caller said he was at Engine 8, heard the Congressman speak about his commitment to gateway cities and said firmly, “I’m with Kennedy now.” And if his message is resonating in other gateway communities the way it is here, the Commonwealth will be with Kennedy too when it votes on September 1.
Marcus Ferro is an attorney practicing in New Bedford and a weekly contributor to The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.