House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced her endorsement on Thursday of Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) in his Senate primary race against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who has served with Pelosi in Congress for over 30 years.
Pelosi announced in a video that “to achieve progressive change, you must be on the front lines leading movements of people. Massachusetts and America need Joe Kennedy’s courage and leadership in the Senate to fight for the change we need”:
The endorsement comes while the heated primary race is less than two weeks away, on September 1, and as many voters in the state have already cast their ballots through the newly passed mass vote-by-mail measure.
While Kennedy, a descendant of one of America’s most influential political families, had enjoyed frontrunner status throughout most of the race’s duration, after minor campaign missteps in recent weeks and what some analysts have observed as an inability for Kennedy to distinguish his progressive viewpoints from those of Markey, the race has tightened significantly.
One recent poll, conducted by SurveyUSA August 12–16, revealed Kennedy trailing Markey by two points, 44 percent to 42 percent, while RealClearPolitics’ polling average currently shows the candidates in a tie.
In Pelosi’s endorsement announcement Thursday, she credited Kennedy with campaigning “across America” to help Democrats take control of the House in 2018, the year in which she also tapped the young congressman to deliver the Democrat response to President Trump’s first State of the Union address.
Markey has also garnered his own collection of noteworthy endorsements throughout the race, including from his colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); the Boston Globe editorial board; and “Squad” member and cosponsor — alongside Markey — of the failed Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), an endorsement Markey has promoted heavily as he continues to highlight his priority of climate change.
While Markey congratulated Kennedy for securing the support of the House’s highest-ranking member and praised Pelosi as “an effective leader who has shattered glass ceilings throughout her career,” others did not speak so highly of the decision.
Ocasio-Cortez was quick to lash out against the move, pointing to Pelosi’s previous objections to Democrats challenging incumbents. “No one gets to complain about primary challenges again,” she wrote:
No one gets to complain about primary challenges again.
So @dccc, when can we expect you to reverse your blacklist policy against primary orgs?
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 20, 2020
Boston District Attorney Rachael Rollins questioned why Pelosi “can insert herself in our US Senate race” and doubled down on her support for Markey:
So @SpeakerPelosi can insert herself in our US Senate race, but @AyannaPressley was not a speaker at the convention? Nancy, the future of the Democratic Party is NOT a privileged, legacy candidate. It is @RepPressley @RepAOC @Ilhan and @RepRashida. I’m chapSTICKIN’ WITH ED. 👏🏼
— DA Rachael Rollins (@DARollins) August 20, 2020
Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, a political action committee committed to ousting establishment incumbents, described Pelosi’s backing of Kennedy as a “TERRIBLE strategy” and continued, “This move reeks of hypocrisy: the party is setting one standard for progressives and one entirely different standard for the establishment”:
This move reeks of hypocrisy: the party is setting one standard for progressives and one entirely different standard for the establishment.
— Alexandra Rojas (@alexandrasiera) August 20, 2020
The Sunrise Movement, a climate change advocacy group and fervent Markey supporter, lambasted Pelosi, saying her endorsement “is an embarassment”:
Nancy Pelosi's endorsement of Joe Kennedy for Senate is an embarrassment for her and the Democratic establishment.
Here's our full statement: pic.twitter.com/e3MCqo6Taw
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) August 20, 2020
In addition to the abundance of criticism, the endorsement from Pelosi is out of character, as the Boston Globe noted. “Pelosi’s decision to wade into a contested Senate Democratic primary, especially on the side of the challenger, is unusual,” the Globe wrote, adding that she is “typically a fierce defender of House Democratic incumbents, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.”