BOSTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III on Thursday in his bid to oust Sen. Edward Markey in the Massachusetts Democratic primary, backing a young challenger against a veteran lawmaker with whom she's served in Congress since 1987.
By embracing Kennedy, grandson of the late U.S. attorney general and New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Pelosi sided with a congressional upstart against one of Washington's old guard. Both contenders are among Congress' more liberal Democrats, but Kennedy, 39, has been in the House since only 2013. Markey, 73, has served in Congress since 1975, moving from the House to the Senate in 2013.
“Joe Kennedy represents this party’s future. He will help lead Democrats forward on the defining battles of our time,” Pelosi said in a fundraising email for him.
The move to spurn Markey, who's been embraced by many progressives, angered Democrats' left flank just hours before the final day of the party's convention, a virtual gathering aimed at rallying the sometimes fractious wings behind presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Pelosi said when Democrats were working to take back control of the House from Republicans during the 2018 elections, Kennedy stumped for candidates across the country.
“From climate change to health care to racial justice, Joe has been a leader in our Caucus organizing us around our core values,” Pelosi said in a press release. “We need leaders who are willing to give every inch of themselves to the causes and concerns that unify Democrats. Joe Kennedy represents this Party’s future."
A Pelosi aide said she was uncomfortable with remarks Markey had made assailing Kennedy and his family’s long political legacy. In one campaign video, Markey paraphrases a famous quote by the late President John F. Kennedy, saying, “We asked what we could do for our country. We went out, we did it. With all due respect, it’s time to start asking what your country can do for you.”
The aide, who said Joe Kennedy didn’t ask for Pelosi’s endorsement, was not authorized to publicly discuss the speaker’s decision and spoke on condition of anonymity. President Kennedy was Joe Kennedy’s great-uncle.