State Senator Eric P. Lesser of Longmeadow announced Friday he is endorsing Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III for Senate, strengthening the Newton Democrat’s toe-hold in the western part of the state as he seeks to beat incumbent Senator Edward J. Markey.
Lesser, an alum of the Obama administration and at 34 years old one of the up-and-coming Democrats on Beacon Hill, told the Globe that he sees a big electoral opportunity for Kennedy in Western Massachusetts.
“It’s distinct from Boston and from the metro Boston area and has a unique set of needs,” Lesser said in an interview. “And we, frankly, are desperate for strong advocates. I think that Representative Kennedy’s message is going to resonate.”
Asked whether that means he thinks Markey hasn’t been a strong enough advocate for his part of the state, Lesser said no.
“I respect and honor Senator Markey’s service and I’ve worked with him. It’s not about that, it’s about the future and who’s going to be a strong advocate for the future. And I think the set of issues that Joe is focused on — infrastructure job creation, vocational education, advanced manufacturing — are the issues that are really going to be at the center of Western Mass.’s economic rebirth,” he said.
Lesser announced his endorsement at an event at Springfield’s Union Station, which reopened in 2017 after an $88.5 million renovation, a spot that represents the progress the region has made as well as the continued challenges. Lesser and other officials from the area continue to fight for a project to connect Springfield with Boston by higher-speed rail, arguing that a reliable and relatively fast link to the booming Boston jobs market could help revitalize the western part of the state.
It’s an effort that Kennedy has committed to push for in Washington if he wins the Senate seat, Lesser said.
“We are at a very critical moment in Western Mass. There’s been a lot of progress, and Union Station is perhaps one of the greatest symbols of that progress,” which is part of the reason Kennedy is visiting the station, he said.
Markey on Thursday scored an endorsement as well, adding to his very sizable list of activist groups and elected officials who are supporting his reelection bid.
Praising the Malden Democrat’s work on policy to combat climate change and career-long crusade against nuclear proliferation, Massachusetts Peace Action — the state arm of the country’s largest peace organization — endorsed Markey on Thursday.
“Senator Markey is a bold progressive leader on nuclear disarmament and the Green New Deal,” Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action said in a statement. “Today, the climate emergency is a critical peace issue. Without international cooperation, the world won’t be able to come together to solve climate change. Senator Markey’s leadership in the fight for a Green New Deal shows that he understands the importance of this issue.”
Markey has certainly racked up a longer list of endorsements than Kennedy, including at least 120 members of the state Legislature, and a few high-profile figures such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a 29-year-old icon of the left with whom he wrote the legislative version of the Green New Deal.
But Kennedy has won the support of a number of the younger elected officials in the state. In addition to Lesser, Kennedy has been endorsed by Senators Adam G. Hinds of Pittsfield and Diana DiZoglio from Methuen; Representative Jon Santiago of Boston, who unseated the state House assistant majority leader in a 2018 primary; Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley; Chelsea City Councilor Judith Garcia; and Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez.