The Last Time the SouthCoast Was Visited By a Sitting President
The SouthCoast is no stranger to visits by former presidents, people campaigning for president, or people who eventually will be president. To be visited by the sitting President of the United States, however, is an exceedingly rare occurrence in the region. President Jo Biden's visit to Somerset today marks the first incumbent presidential visit to SouthCoast in 26 years.
During the 1996 presidential election, President Bill Clinton visited Fall River and spoke before a crowd of 25,000 people at Kennedy Park. Clinton winning Massachusetts in the Electoral College was never in question, but the purpose of his visit was to stump for Senator John Kerry and congressional candidate Jim McGovern.
After the Democrats suffered historic losses due to the Gingrich Revolution of the 1994 midterm elections, Clinton was not only campaigning for reelection but also to regain majorities in both chambers of Congress once again. Kerry was locked in a difficult reelection battle for Senate with Republican Governor Bill Weld. McGovern was a longtime Democratic operative challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Peter Blute to represent the 2nd Congressional District on Capitol Hill.
Clinton greeted the large crowd at Kennedy Park with "Obrigado, Fall River" – "Thank you" in Portuguese, a nod to Fall River's rich Portuguese culture.
Then-President Clinton's trip to the SouthCoast had a national and global impact that is still apparent today. Kerry was reelected to the Senate, was the Democratic nominee for President in 2004, and was eventually tapped by President Barack Obama to be Secretary of State in 2013. He now serves in the Biden Administration as United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Jim McGovern defeated Blute in '96 and is still representing the 2nd Congressional District. He is now the chair of the House Rules Committee.
Today's presidential visit to Brayton Point in Somerset also looks to be globally and historically significant. Once one of the most pollutant-heavy power plants in the Commonwealth, Brayton Point now symbolizes the vision of Biden's climate agenda as it becomes a staging area for the wind energy industry in the U.S. It is also now the site where the president issued key executive orders to combat ongoing climate crisis while he reportedly mulls over a declaring a national climate emergency.
Biden is also flying in with Congressman Jake Auchincloss, whose district includes Somerset. Auchincloss is a first term Congressman who has quickly become a leader in the House of Representatives, securing key committee appointments early in his legislative career. Biden's decision to visit Auchincloss' district and fly him in on Air Force One may be a harbinger of the young Congressman's future as a leader on the national stage.
Though incumbent presidential visits to the SouthCoast may be infrequent, the region's growing prominence as a national hub for offshore wind may garner more Commander-in-Chief visits in the future to highlight the importance of offshore wind to combat the global climate crisis.