SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Ahead of their first televised debate this week, incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey won bragging rights over Democratic primary challenger Congressman Joe Kennedy III in the opening weekend of caucuses to elect delegates for the state party convention.

The local caucuses, which will continue into March, pick delegates to attend the Massachusetts Democratic Party nominating convention on May 30. A candidate must receive the support of at least 15% of convention delegates in order to appear on the September primary ballot, and the convention will endorse the candidate who receives a majority.

Both campaigns acknowledged that Markey got the edge in the opening weekend of caucuses. Nick Clemons, Kennedy’s campaign manager, wrote on Twitter that unofficial results showed Markey winning 137 delegates, while Kennedy received 107.

“We are seeing the kind of big statewide support from the grassroots that reflects the leadership Senator Markey has shown for Massachusetts on a range of issues from climate change, to gun safety, to health care, to immigrant rights,” John Walsh, Markey’s campaign manager, said in a statement.

Kennedy’s campaign downplayed the results, with Clemons describing the entire caucus process as “an insider’s game.” A Kennedy campaign aide highlighted his side’s strong showings in Quincy, Worcester and Boston as a good sign, but acknowledged the process favors Markey.

Locally, the biggest Democratic caucuses have not taken place yet. New Bedford Democrats hold theirs on March 8, with Attleboro on March 12, Taunton on March 14 and Fall River on March 21, according to the state party.

Markey and Kennedy are scheduled to face off in their first televised debate Tuesday night on WGBH. Kennedy began the year with a significant financial edge, raising roughly $1 million more than the senator during the final three months of 2019.

Ted Nesi ( is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook