Pemberton drops out of US Senate race, citing Kennedy and Markey’s ‘entrenched power’

Steve Pemberton spoke last month during the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention in Springfield.
Steve Pemberton spoke last month during the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention in Springfield.Nic Antaya/For The Boston Globe

Steve Pemberton on Monday became the first candidate to drop out of the Democratic primary race for the US Senate, delivering a blistering attack on his own party as he exited.

With incumbent Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III attracting most of the attention, Pemberton and other lesser-known candidates have been struggling to get noticed. Pemberton, 52, who announced his candidacy in July, cited the difficulties of “attempting to take on entrenched power” in a race dominated by two well-known candidates. He excoriated Democrats for favoring the establishment candidates, and for failing to support diversity.


In a statement, Pemberton railed against what he called “an impenetrable wall of legacy and birthright – of incumbency and connections,” and decried “a campaign finance system that allows incumbents to hoard millions of dollars in special interest PAC money — right up to the point where they ‘see the light’ and conveniently embrace campaign finance reform for short-term political advantage while sitting comfortably on their bloated war chests.”

Pemberton said party insiders attacked him for having the temerity to challenge Markey, and sought to derail his campaign by pressuring consultants not to work with him, but later “changed their tune” when Kennedy challenged Markey.

“The message, delivered to me, in word and in deed was abundantly clear: those same rules did not apply to him,” he said.

The state Democratic party did not immediately respond to The Boston Globe’s request for comment.

The race includes one other Democrat, Brookline labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who has donated $3 million to her campaign since launching it in May as she attempts to keep pace with Markey and Kennedy.

In a statement Monday, Liss-Riordan said she has “encountered some of the same obstacles Steve described. But I have been extremely energized and encouraged by the response I have received on the campaign trail in towns all across Massachusetts.


“There is a hunger among voters for a new voice,” she continued. “Washington, and yes, the Democratic Party, is failing working people.”

In announcing his withdrawal, Pemberton reflected on his unlikely candidacy and his struggle out of poverty after a losing his mother to alcoholism and his father to gun violence while he was still a child.

“I was shuffled in and out of unstable and violent foster homes trying to find a normalcy that never came, trying to be seen as any human being wants to be seen: for the possibilities of my life and not the circumstances. He also praised the “human lighthouses” who helped him overcome those obstacles and achieve his goals.

“They were the reason that I made improving the lives of others the purpose of my own life,” he said. “They were the reason I focused my career on providing equal access to the great engines of the American Dream — higher education, career advancement, and health care. And most importantly, they were the reason I found what will always be the greatest treasure of my life – the one thing that I had sought all along – family.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.