The death of Senator Ted Kennedy on August 25, 2009 marked the end of nearly five decades of service representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. The late Senator Kennedy and his staff were responsible for more than 300 bills that have been enacted into law. Throughout his career, Kennedy consistently championed an interventionist government framework with a focus on economics and social justice.
Kennedy was well known for working with across the aisle with Republicans and for finding common ground between Senators with differing opinions. Kennedy played a major role over his nearly 47 years in the Senate by enacting many laws affecting women, children, the elderly, people of color and underserved populations generally.
Legislative Career: A Brief Overview
In 1972, Senator Ted Kennedy sponsored a series of bills later enacted into law, which focused on women, children and the elderly. During this era, Kennedy helped to pass the Meals on Wheels Act, which offered meals to home-bound senior citizens. He also sponsored the Women’s Children Nutrition Program Act know as (WIC). WIC offered consulting and health services to low-income women, infants and children nationwide. He was a supporter of Title 1X of the Education Amendments of 1978. Title IX protected women against discrimination in higher education institutions and increased opportunities for women to participate in college sports.
Towards the end of the 1970’s, Kennedy cosponsored the Education For All Handicapped Act which later became known as the Disabilities Education Act (DEA). The DEA required the provision of free access to public education for children with disabilities in every state. At this time, Kennedy became the chairperson of the Judiciary Committee and used his influence to encourage the selection of women and minorities for judicial appointment. Kennedy also cosponsored the Civil Rights Commission Act amendment that expanded the jurisdiction of the Commission to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination.
In 1980, while campaigning against Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination for President, Kennedy introduced the Civil Rights For Institutional Persons Act. This bill, which later became law, offered constitutional rights to persons in public, government institutions where existing conditions deprived institutionalized persons of civil rights.
In the early 1990’s Kennedy sponsored several important acts that were enacted into law. He helped to enact the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), which prohibited discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities throughout the process of job application, hiring and discharge. The Senator simultaneously worked to expand the Head Start program by increasing the number of children serviced by 12% nationally. Senator Kennedy, along with Senator Hatch, a Republican, introduced the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides emergency relief to the thirteen cities most affected by the AIDS epidemic, and also grants substantial assistance to all states towards the development of effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, particularly through early diagnosis and home care. During these productive years, Kennedy also worked to expand the Summer Youth Program by adding 300,000 jobs nationwide. Finally, he sponsored the National Community Trust Act which created AmeriCorps.
In the mid 1990s, Senator Kennedy’s leadership brought about the passage of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. The latter provided seed money for local school-to-work programs designed and operated by local business, education, community, and labor leaders. He also sponsored the Human Services Reauthorization Act, which expanded funding available to communities, put the Head Start program on a path to reach all eligible children and expanded it to cover pregnant women and young children in the 0-3 age group, effectively creating Early Head Start.
In the late 1990s, Senator Kennedy again collaborated with Senator Hatch across partisan lines to enact the national Children’s Health Insurance Program, which brought qualified health care to low-income children.
In the decade of the 2000s, Senator Kennedy was the lead sponsor of the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act, which seeks to address the causes that lead to pervasive health disparities between people of color and white Americans. This act also included an allocation of significant resources to improve the delivery of health care services to people of color. At a time when many Democrats had distanced themselves from the White House and its policies, Senator Kennedy worked with President Bush to pass the landmark No Child Left Behind Act, which contained substantial reforms intended to close disparities in achievement among students in public schools and improve the quality of education for all students.
During this decade, Senator Kennedy also led the effort to strengthen law enforcement in cases of child exploitation or abduction. His work in this arena led to several tangible changes, such as the creation of the AMBER Alert notification systems along U.S. highways, and grants to states for the improvement of communication among law enforcement officers. Furthermore, Senator Kennedy sponsored the Family Opportunity Act, which enabled states to expand Medicaid coverage for children with special needs and also expanded Medicaid coverage to low- and middle-income families with disabled children. In his final year in office, Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch worked together yet again to lead the enactment of the Serve America Act (2009), which expanded service opportunities for Americans of every age.
Overview of the Special Election Candidates
The death of Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy ended the fourth longest tenure of a Senator in U.S. history, behind Robert Byrd (D, West Virginia), Daniel Inouye (D, Hawaii), and the late Strom Thurmond (R, South Carolina). Kennedy served the nation under nine U.S. presidents. He began his service in office under his late brother President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Four Democratic candidates are currently running for the Massachusetts Senate seat that Kennedy vacated. Currently Martha Coakley, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the front running candidate. She is followed by U. S. Representative Michael Capuano, Democrat of the 8th Congressional District. Capuano has served for four terms, and previously served as Mayor of Somerville. The third candidate in the race is Stephen Pagliuca, Boston Celtics co-owner and former co-managing partner of Bain Capital. Pagliuca worked at Bain Capital during the period when Mitt Romney served as Governor of Massachusetts. Finally, the fourth Democratic is, Alan Khazei, co-founder of City-Year in Boston. Alan worked with Senator Kennedy as an advisor during the creation of the Serve America Act.
Two Republican candidates are also running for the Senate seat. State Senator Scott R. Brown of Wrentham is the first of the two. The second candidate is Jack E. Robinson III who grew up in Roxbury and attende
d Brown and Harvard Universities.
Martha Coakley is a lawyer experienced in litigation practice for Goodwin Proctor in Boston. Coakley joined the District Attorney’s office of Middlesex County in Lowell in 1986. In 1987, Coakley was invited to join the U. S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime Task Force as a special attorney. She later returned to the DA’s office in 1988, and in 1991 was appointed chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit, during which time she investigated hundreds of cases including, including that of Louise Woodward in December of that year. In 1998, Coakley was elected Middlesex County District Attorney and was responsible for the conviction of Michael McDermott in the Edgewater massacre in Wakefield. In 2006, the Massachusetts Democratic Party presented her with the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Award.
Stephen Pagluica began his business career as a senior accountant and international tax specialist for Peat Marwick Mitchell & Company in the Netherlands. Peat Marwick is now known as KPMG. Pagluica joined Bain Capital in 1989 from Bain & Company. There he focused on the information services and healthcare industries, developing Bain & Company’s turnaround practice. Pagluica was later appointed as a managing partner for the same investment firm. Pagluica attended Duke University and received a MBA from Harvard University.
Presently, Michael Capuano is the U. S. Representative of the 8th Congressional District. Capuano has served four terms in Congress representing the 8th district after his election in 1999. Capuano formerly served as Mayor of Somerville from January 1990 through November 1998. After his election as a Massachusetts Congressman, he began to serve on the Congressional committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Financial Services. He attended Dartmouth College and Babson College School of Law.
Alan Khazei is the fourth Democratic candidate running for the seat of the late Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy. Khazi, along with his former Harvard roommate Michael Brown, is a co-founder of City Year-Boston. He is also the founder and CEO of Be The Change, Inc. a Boston, Massachusetts-based organization dedicated to building a national coalition of non-profits and citizens concerned about issues of poverty and education. He collaborated with the late Senator Kennedy to draft the Serve American Act, which President Obama signed into law. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.
Scott P. Brown and Charles E. Robinson are the two Republican candidates
running in the special US Senate election in Massachusetts. Brown is a practicing attorney specializing in family law. He has served in several capacities in his hometown of Wrentham: Assessor, Member of the Board of Selectman, Congressman in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and finally State Senator. Brown attended Tufts University and Boston College Law School.
Charles E. Robinson on the other hand, began his business career working as an airline executive for Eastern Airlines. He later founded his own cell phone company. He ran against Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy in the 2000 Senate election and received 12 percent of the vote. He attended Brown University and Harvard University.
Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Attorney General, former Bain Capital managing partner Steve Pagliuca, and U. S. Representative Michael Capuano are the three primary candidates running in the special December Democratic Party primary. These candidates have together garnered approximately 76% of recent straw polls conducted by the Boston Globe. All three candidates have adequate experience in business and working with people on the state, national and international levels to become the Democratic party candidate in the January 2010 special election. Coakley and Capuano are a step ahead of Pagluica because of their experience in government and law.
Of the remaining candidates, Republican State Senator Scott P. Brown has the law and legislative experience, working in the State House of Representatives and State Senate that sets himself above the remaining two candidates, Charles Robinson and Alan Khazei. This background and expertise will likely win him votes in the special election.
This overview and critique of the late U.S. Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy has made me come to respect the work that the man accomplished over his 50 year career, not because of his name or his wealth (estimated to be over 100 million dollars), but because of his commitment to the people of the Commonwealth and the 300 bills he sponsored that were enacted into law.
Furthermore, the overview of the six primary candidates in this special primary election has been prepared to better inform Spare Change News readers and to introduce them to the candidates that will run in the January 2010 election.
Robert Sondak is a Spare Change News Vendor and writer. Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in Community Service Management from the University of Massachusetts Boston, College of Public & Community Service (CPCS). Robert also had a minor in Community Planning.
Editor’s Note: In order to better prepare our readers for the Massachusetts Senate primary on December 8th and the general election on January 19th, 2010, subsequent issues of Spare Change News will feature articles that will focus on each candidate in particular. These stories will empower the reader with knowledge of the Senate race from a street perspective, distinct from that of mainstream media outlets.