SOMERVILLE, Mass. (AP) — Sen. John Kerry said Wednesday he would take up one of Sen. Edward Kennedy's key political fights, pledging to the thousands who attended his town hall meeting to push for the health care overhaul championed by his longtime Democratic colleague.
More than 2,000 people turned up for Kerry's first public meeting since Kennedy's Aug. 25 death from brain cancer at age 77. A line of supporters and opponents of health care reforms snaked out of the Somerville high school and down two blocks.
Kerry quickly invoked Kennedy's memory and promised to push for the best health care reform package possible.
"That means taking on these battles in the way that Teddy would and I pledge to you that I will," he said.
Kennedy had repeatedly called the expansion of health care to uninsured Americans the signature issue of his 47-year tenure in the U.S. Senate. Supporters have said his absence in Washington over much of the past year has made the job of hammering out compromise legislation more difficult.
Kerry, also a strong supporter of overhauling the health care system, has vowed to push through the measure in Kennedy's name. He said he would follow Kennedy's example of fighting hard for his principles and seeking political compromises that serve national interest.
"It's very important for us to fight the fight, push as hard as we can for the things that we believe in, stand up for our principles, and if we can't find the votes based on that battle, then we have to find a way to get done the best we can do for the American people," Kerry said.
U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a Democrat who represents Somerville and also supports overhauling the nation's health care system, joined Kerry at the town hall.