Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III announced Friday he was suspending his Senate campaign for at least a week due to the “growing threat” of the coronavirus outbreak, a pause that includes seeking to reschedule a debate with his primary opponent, incumbent Senator Edward J. Markey.
“Effective close of business today, Kennedy for Massachusetts is temporarily suspending all campaign activities, in light of the growing threat of COVID-19. We don’t believe it is appropriate or wise to continue political activities, given the reality that Massachusetts families and communities are facing. Our top priority is ensuring our staff, supporters, community, and the general public are safe,” Kennedy campaign manager Nick Clemons said in a statement.
Clemons said the suspension is for a week, and that the campaign will reassess the situation by the end of the day next Friday, March 20.
The announcement means all Kennedy campaign offices in the state will be closed by the end of the day and all staff will work remotely. “All fundraising and voter contact will be suspended, saved for digital communication focused on COVID-19,” the campaign said.
The most significant impact of the move could be the cancellation of the debate with Markey scheduled for Wednesday. Clemons said the campaign notified debate organizers of their decision and "is hopeful all parties involved can work to reschedule.”
Markey may very well have a tough time making the debate, too, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will be in session next week to work on a coronavirus response. The week originally was planned as an in-district work period for senators.
Debate organizers had already significantly altered the event in light of the virus, cancelling the studio audience and banning the presence of supporters on the sidewalks outside. Reporters aren’t even allowed to to cover the debate in person.
The Kennedy campaign says it will stay in touch with supporters and the public at large via digital channels but that all communication will focus on sharing information about the outbreak and what Kennedy is doing on that front.
“Congressman Kennedy will focus his time on his official capacity — ensuring our Commonwealth and country have the resources they need to respond to this threat. He will be present as much as possible across his district and Massachusetts, working in partnership with local leaders to deliver the resources our communities need," Clemons said.