MALDEN, MA - SEPTEMBER 01: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) speaks at a primary election night event at Malden Public Library on September 1, 2020 in Malden, Massachusetts. Sen. Markey won the primary race over challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. (Photo by Allison Dinner/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Democratic primary races in Massachusetts saw record turnout for contests pitting establishment-backed candidates against the party’s burgeoning progressive wing, which has already secured a record number of victories this election cycle.

In the highest-stakes election, Sen. Ed Markey, a champion of the Green New Deal, coasted to victory against challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who lost despite the backing of Nancy Pelosi and much of the Democratic Party establishment. Markey secured the support of youth climate activists from the Sunrise Movement, progressive groups like the Working Families Party, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Recent polls gave Markey a comfortable double-digit lead. The race marked the first time a Kennedy has been defeated in an election in state history.

In another key race, powerful 16-term Rep. Richard Neal beat a primary challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District. Serving as the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Neal is one of the biggest recipients of corporate money from powerful interests like the insurance, finance, and real estate industries. And he’s done their bidding, critics say, including killing a rare bipartisan effort to stop the practice of surprise billing of medical patients.

Morse endured an attempted political hit that thrust the race into the national spotlight when he was accused of abusing his power to coerce college students into having sex with him, which The Intercept exposed as not only false but a plan orchestrated in part by the state party leadership. This debunking of the false accusations received far less attention in local Massachusetts media. Morse also won the support of progressive grassroots groups like Justice Democrats, who recruited the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman, who all pulled off stunning upsets against entrenched incumbents. Morse, however, was significantly outspent by Neal.

“While Neal walks away damaged and vulnerable, Alex Morse emerges as an inspiration for his community who overcame a culture of fear instilled by the incumbent and desperate, manufactured attacks,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, in a press release.
The record turnout in Massachusetts continued a trend that could be key to deciding the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump, who spent the day in Kenosha, Wisconsin, against many elected officials’ wishes, has signaled he won’t accept the general election results if he loses. He has predicted widespread voter fraud if states continue with plans to allow mail-in voting, blocked funding for the Postal Service, defended officers who killed unarmed Black men, and claimed without evidence that Black Lives Matter protests are part of a secret plot to oust him from power.

“We don’t need more pain and division from a president set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” said Justin Blake, uncle of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by a white Kenosha police officer. “We need justice and relief for our community.”

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.