US Sen. Ed Markey, the longest-serving member of Congress in Massachusetts, chalked up his victorious primary campaign to an appetite for "fundamental change" in the country Wednesday.
"We're going through a pandemic. We're going through an economic depression and we're going through a period of enormous racial tension and what the voters of Massachusetts are saying in a clear, compelling way is that they want change," Markey said. "They want that agenda on the floor of the United States Senate next year."
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
Consistent with his campaign strategy, Markey labeled himself among the liberal wing of the party Wednesday. The message Markey said he received from voters is the desire for change across the "full spectrum of issues," naming climate change and as well as broad reform in criminal justice, immigration and gun control.
"My progressive view of where our country has to go is the one that was chosen by the voters yesterday," Markey said, citing his work on the Green New Deal climate change initiative. "It's just been an incredible example of how much young people want to see fundamental change in our country, and it's on the issues that are most important to them."
He predicted a "huge Democratic sweep," to come from this year's general elections, calling President Donald Trump a "racist who has divided our country, who was criminally negligent, who has ignored all of the big issues that the voters of Massachusetts and the country want to help dealt with."
Markey characterized himself as a "wholehearted supporter," of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, emphasizing the hard work ahead to establish a coalition that ensures the House and Senate will have the votes to pass a "progressive, change-oriented agenda," next year.
Meanwhile, the Republican challenger for U.S. Senate Kevin O'Connor dared Markey to a debate in his own hometown Wednesday morning, seemingly echoing recent talking points from the Trump campaign.
"We're gonna fight for Massachusetts, we're gonna fight for law and order, we're going to fight for common sense and I will fight for all of you," O'Connor said in front of the Malden Police Station. "I am here, I'm ready to debate tonight. Senator Markey, let's get it on. You want tonight, tomorrow night - anytime. I will be anywhere and everywhere."
O'Connor claimed the state's longest-serving member of Congress has "done nothing," over the past four decades and called the Green New Deal an "absolute job killer."
"I really don't know a lot about my Republican opponent right now other than the fact that he says that he is an ardent Donald Trump supporter," Markey responded.
O'Connor also criticized Markey for having spent little time in Massachusetts, a point of contention that has been present through the campaign.
"Ultimately, the job of a legislator is to legislate," Markey countered. "It's to take what you've heard and to then pass laws and with 500 of them on the books, already I do know how to do that. And that's what I heard loud and clear."
Markey and O'Connor will face off in the November general election.
Markey appealed to voters in the deeply Democratic state to defeat his primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Decades older than his Democratic rival, Markey harnessed support from progressive leaders to overcome a challenge from the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy.
Teaming up with a leading progressive, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and labeling Kennedy as a "progressive in name only," helped Markey overcome the enduring power of the Kennedy name in Massachusetts.
The 39-year-old congressman had sought to cast the 74-year-old Markey as someone out of touch after spending decades in Congress, first in the House before moving to the Senate.
The loss marks the first in Kennedy's storied political family to lose a run for Congress in Massachusetts.
"Obviously, these results were not the ones we were hoping for," U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III said in his concession speech Tuesday night. "But to everyone who fought with us, for everyone who stood with us, for everyone who believed in us and gave their sweat and their tears and their hearts and their souls to this fight, I am so proud of what we accomplished, of what we built together."
Kennedy, looking deflated, told supporters Tuesday, "We may have lost the final vote count tonight but we built a coalition that will endure."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had endorsed Kennedy, and Trump got in a dig at both, tweeting early Wednesday, "See, even a Kennedy isn't safe in the new Radical Left Democrat Party… Pelosi strongly backed the loser!'"
Both Markey and Kennedy spent Tuesday canvassing across Massachusetts to make their final pitches to voters. Kennedy called to concede and congratulate Markey before even half the votes were counted, as numbers showed he trailed the incumbent by 10 points.
The race for Kennedy's House seat in the 4th Congressional District remained too close to call Tuesday night, with just over 1,000 votes separating Democrats Jesse Mermell and Jake Auchincloss as of Wednesday morning. Republican Julie Hall, an Air Force veteran, defeated David Rosa on the GOP ticket.
Tuesday's primary went smoothly despite nearly 1 million voters casting mail-in or drop-off ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic -- an unprecedented crush that electoral officials had warned might lead to delays in counting votes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.