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Progressives decry Pelosi's endorsement of Kennedy in Senate primary

Progressives decry Pelosi's endorsement of Kennedy in Senate primary
© Bonnie Cash

A number of progressive groups on Thursday decried Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE's (D-Calif.) endorsement of Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyConor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania Van Drew fends off challenge from Kennedy after party switch Markey wins reelection in Massachusetts MORE III (Mass.) over incumbent Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (Mass.) in the Bay State's Democratic Senate primary, accusing her of a "double standard" in endorsing a challenger to the party's incumbent.

“This move reeks of hypocrisy: the party is setting one standard for progressives and one entirely different standard for the establishment,” Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of the progressive group Justice Democrats, said in a statement.  

The Sunrise Movement, a climate change advocacy group, called Pelosi’s endorsement of Kennedy “embarrassing.” 

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“We’re honestly shocked she had the gall to invoke social movements in endorsing Joe Kennedy,” the group said. “This endorsement is embarrassing because it plainly reveals a ridiculous double standard.” 

And a spokesperson for the Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden announces all-female White House communications team The 'diploma divide' in American politics Bernie Sanders should opt for a government-created vaccine from China or Russia MORE (I-Vt.)-inspired group Our Revolution told The Hill that if the party’s establishment “think we are just going to sit on our hands and take it, they have another thing coming.” 

Progressive Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Calif.), who is backing Markey, warned in a tweet that Pelosi’s endorsement will backfire. 

“Pelosi endorsing Kennedy is just evidence that supports @EdMarkey case against dynasty and smoke filled rooms anointing candidates. Bold prediction: it will backfire,” Khanna said. “Markey’s up two. My guess is now he’ll win the race by more than 5.”

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Progressives cited a past rule instituted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) that sought to block consultants for the party from aiding and working for primary challengers. 

“No one gets to complain about primary challenges again,” progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere Trump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling MORE (D-N.Y.), who ousted longtime Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) two years ago, said in a tweet reacting to the news. “So @dccc, when can we expect you to reverse your blacklist policy against primary orgs?”  

“Because between this & lack of care around @IlhanMN's challenger, it seems like less a policy and more a cherry-picking activity,” she added, referring to fellow progressive Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Minn.), who defeated her primary challenger earlier this year. 

Omar defeated Antone Melton-Meaux earlier this month. But her challenger had locked down several notable endorsements and had raised $3.2 million.  

The DCCC previously has said it offered support to all incumbents, including Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives who unseated incumbents in 2018. 

Pelosi officially threw her support behind Kennedy on Thursday, saying he represents the future of the Democratic Party. 

The Speaker noted that Kennedy played a key role in the Democrats winning a House majority in 2018 and that he “knows that to achieve progressive change, you must be on the front lines, leading movements of people.”

A Pelosi aide told The Hill that Kennedy did not ask for her endorsement, and said she was concerned about the Markey campaign’s attacks on Kennedy, his family’s political legacy and his supporters.  

Pelosi took issue with an ad released by the Markey campaign last week in which he invoked former President John F. Kennedy, saying "With all due respect, it's time to start asking what your country can do for you,” according to the aide. 

When approached for comment, Kennedy’s communications director Emily Kaufman expressed the congressman’s gratitude for his endorsements. 

“Joe is really honored to have the support of so many colleagues he admires in this race — from Speaker Pelosi, to Progressive Caucus Chairman Mark PocanMark William PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE, to the late Congressman John LewisJohn LewisDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Biden must look to executive action to fulfill vow to Black Americans MORE,” Kaufman said.

Meanwhile, Markey reacted to news of Pelosi’s endorsement by congratulating Kennedy. 

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a tremendous, effective leader who has shattered glass ceilings throughout her career,” Markey said in a statement. “I had the privilege to work alongside Nancy in the House of Representatives for decades. Any candidate would be proud to have her endorsement, and I congratulate Congressman Kennedy on securing her support.” 

Markey has received endorsements from the establishment wing of the party as well, including from Pelosi’s political ally Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.), who has campaigned for Markey. 

The incumbent senator also has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which works to protect incumbents facing reelection. 

Kennedy and Markey will face off in the Bay State’s Democratic Senate primary on Sept. 1. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows the race tied at 44.8 percent.