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Markey says he’ll only do one televised general election debate

Senator Ed Markey spoke at a primary election night event at Malden Public Library on Sept. 1.Allison Dinner/Getty

Senator Edward J. Markey just became the first politician to beat a Kennedy in Massachusetts. And the primary contest in which he fended off US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III featured no fewer than seven debates.

On Friday, he let it be known that voters should only expect one more before November.

“Senator Markey always debates his opponents, and in the 2020 general election for the United States Senate, he looks forward to debating Republican Kevin O’Connor on October 5 at a debate hosted by GBH,” said Markey campaign manager John Walsh in a statement.

O’Connor’s campaign reacted with frustration, as a spokeswoman charged that Markey had refused debate invitations from media. Walsh declined to respond.


O’Connor, in an interview, insisted Markey should engage him in as many debates as he did Kennedy.

“He is asking for his contract to be renewed, but he’s afraid to subject himself to a second interview,” said O’Connor, a trial attorney from Dover.

O’Connor suggested Markey was ducking and said that was characteristic of his tenure. He pointed to Markey’s vote on the Green New Deal, which the senator cosponsored. (When Republican leadership rushed a vote on the measure, which they were ridiculing and preparing to defeat, Democrats did not vote for what they called a “sham vote.”)

“He didn’t have the courage to vote yes, didn’t have the courage to vote no. He voted ‘present,’ ” said O’Connor. “Only in Washington can someone vote ‘present’ and then claim that action as his signature achievement.”

Walsh declined to speak to the vote, but said in his statement that O’Connor “denies the urgent need for a Green New Deal to save our planet” He also said that Markey is eager to contrast his record and vision with that of O’Connor, who supports President Trump.


“We’re certain he will be a vote for the Trump agenda if he gets to the US Senate,” said Walsh. “We’re happy to lay out the differences between these candidates in the debate on Oct. 5.”

In confirming the single debate, Walsh pointed to a short general election season further compressed this cycle because ballots can be mailed in ahead of Election Day. He also pointed to Markey’s need to be in Washington, D.C., for votes related to COVID-19 relief.

“Ed Markey has always debated his opponents, so we’re going to do one,” Walsh said.

The single matchup is unusual in Massachusetts Senate contests, which in recent years have more typically featured three televised debates. When Markey first ran for the Senate in 2013, after 36 years in Congress, he participated in three debates with Republican opponent Gabriel Gomez. When he ran for a full term in 2014, however, Markey met only once with Republican Brian Herr of Hopkinton.

Three televised debates were also held in the 2010 Senate general election contest between Scott Brown and Attorney General Martha Coakley; in the 2012 race between then-US Senator Brown and Elizabeth Warren; and in Warren’s 2018 reelection contest against Republican state Representative Geoff Diehl.

GBH News will host the televised debate between Markey and O’Connor on Oct. 5 and share the broadcast with TV, radio, and digital outlets around the state. Moderated by Boston Public Radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, the hourlong debate will follow social distancing guidelines.


“Massachusetts voters need to hear directly from political candidates in order to make informed decisions at the ballot box,” said Pam Johnston, GBH general manager for news, in a statement.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.