ED MARKEY’S SENATE primary battle is getting a big boost from an army of young activists, some of whom are convincing their parents to join the youth-fueled “Markeyverse.” Now the campaign is trumpeting the intergenerational backing it has from a surprising source: The daughter and grandson of late Republican governor Paul Cellucci.
Anne Cellucci Adams and her son Rhys recorded a web video ad being released today backing the liberal incumbent in his primary showdown with Rep. Joe Kennedy.
“I’m only 13, but I’m deeply passionate about government and politics,” Rhys Adams says in the ad. “And the more and more research I did, the more and more impressed I became with Ed Markey.”
He goes on to say that Markey is fighting for issues he cares about, “like LGBTQ+ equality, racial justice, the climate crisis, and America’s crumbling health care system.” Rhys not only started volunteering for the campaign, joining a group of young phone canvassers dubbed the “Green New Dial” team, he began lobbying his mother to support Markey.
“I told him, OK, you’re sounding very persuasive. I’ll look into this,” the late governor’s daughter says in the ad, recorded at the family’s home in Needham.
Cellucci Adams says she likes both Democratic candidates in the Senate race but was won over by her son’s arguments and now plans to vote for Markey. “I have real respect for the Kennedy family,” she said in an interview. “But Markey’s done an amazing job. Why are we replacing him right now?”
She said her father knew Markey well, and always spoke highly of him.
Cellucci, who died in 2013, served as lieutenant governor under Bill Weld before being elected to the corner office in 1998. He resigned in 2001 to become US ambassador to Canada.
One of two daughters of the late governor and his wife Jan, Cellucci Adams said she’s an unenrolled voter who supports candidates she believes in regardless of party label.
“I’m a huge fan of Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito, and think they are doing an amazing job and really love them,” she said. “But, overall, I don’t feel at home in the Republican Party nationally, and my viewpoints, especially on social issues, line up more with the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates.”
Rhys Adams, who shows a preternatural grasp of politics for someone about to begin 7th grade, seems to lean more firmly to the left, excited to point to the power of young activists in recent primary wins by insurgent Democratic congressional candidates Jamaal Bowman in New York and Cori Bush in Missouri.
Though both of those candidates upended older, long-serving Democrats, Rhys Adams said he and other young activists don’t reflexively back younger challengers like Kennedy, 39, taking on a 74-year-old incumbent. It’s not about “identity politics from an age standpoint,” he said, echoing the Markey campaign message that what counts is whether he has fresh ideas, not a fresh face.
Cellucci Adams said she had not been paying a lot of attention to the Senate showdown until her son started volunteering for Markey earlier this month. “I hadn’t been thinking about the race, to be honest with you. I have three kids, I run a business,” said Cellucci Adams, who has a consulting firm that works with businesses to follow UN sustainable development practices.
Markey’s campaign manager, John Walsh, said the kind of lobbying Rhys Adams practiced on his mom — trying to persuade those close to you who may not be as focused on an election — is now called “relational organizing.” A whole literature has emerged on the topic, most prominently a 2019 book, Getting Out The Vote, by political scientists Donald Green and Alan Gerber.
Although the book delves into the topic in sophisticated ways, Walsh says it builds on a simple, time-honored approach that focuses on ground-level campaigning. “It’s the same thing Mike Dukakis built precinct by precinct, the same thing Deval Patrick built precinct by precinct,” Walsh said. “Talking to your friends and family is now called ‘relational organizing.’”