House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Thursday that her startling endorsement of Rep. Joe Kennedy’s (D-MA) primary campaign against Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was born of outrage over what she believed to be slander against the Kennedy dynasty.
“I wasn’t too happy with some of the assault that I saw made on the Kennedy family,” Pelosi told the Washington Post. “And I thought, Joe didn’t ask me to endorse him, but I felt an imperative to do so.”
Throughout the primary race, Markey’s campaign has painted the young challenger as an example of the Kennedy family dynasty that has long dominated Massachusetts politics. In one viral ad, the senator swiped at his challenger with a reference to President John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you” speech.
“With all due respect, it’s time to start asking what your country can do for you,” Markey says in the ad.
Pelosi’s decision to back Kennedy on Thursday sparked backlash among progressives, who pointed out the disconnect between the House speaker’s endorsement and the party establishment’s disapproval of primary challenges against sitting Democrats. After the 2018 midterms, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) began an official blacklist against vendors who work with primary challengers, a policy Pelosi approved.
One critic included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who co-sponsored the Green New Deal with Markey, tweeting that “no one gets to complain about primary challenges again.”
“So @dccc, when can we expect you to reverse your blacklist policy against primary orgs?” she asked. “Because between this and lack of care around @IlhanMN’s challenger, it seems like less a policy and more a cherry-picking activity.”
The New York congresswoman was referring to how DCCC declined to take action when Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) moderate primary challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux, freely admitted to using LLCs for campaign funds in order to dodge the fundraising arm’s blacklist.