House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is throwing her weight behind U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Edward Markey — prompting cries of hypocrisy from progressives and teeing up another clash with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Never before have the times demanded we elect courageous leaders as today,” Pelosi said in her video endorsement of Kennedy Thursday — a surprising late-stage turn in the hotly contested Senate primary.

Ocasio-Cortez — who’s backing Markey, her Green New Deal coauthor — responded to Pelosi’s endorsement by lighting up the Democrats’ congressional campaign arm for “cherry-picking” when to enforce its policy blacklisting firms that aid challengers taking on incumbents in Democratic primaries.

“No one gets to complain about primary challenges again,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “So @dccc, when can we expect you to reverse your blacklist policy against primary orgs?”

Pelosi lauded Kennedy’s efforts to help flip the House blue in 2018 as part of her endorsement of the 39-year-old challenger.

“He knows that to achieve progressive change, you must be on the front lines, leading movements of people,” Pelosi said in a video announcing her support. “Massachusetts and America need Joe Kennedy’s courage and leadership in the Senate to fight for the change we need.”

The highest-ranking woman in government — who tapped Kennedy to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s first State of the Union in 2018 — praised the 39-year-old as the future of the Democratic Party in a statement released by his campaign. A Pelosi aide reportedly said the congresswoman was uncomfortable with Markey’s repeated attacks on Kennedy and his family.

Kennedy called Pelosi “a force and a changemaker” and said he’s “beyond grateful to have her in my corner.”

Pelosi’s backing should give Kennedy a boost as he remains locked in an incredibly close race against the incumbent with less than two weeks until the final votes are cast. A recent SurveyUSA poll of likely Democratic primary voters put the pair neck-and-neck with Markey edging Kennedy 44% to 42%, within the poll’s margin of error. Of the 558 voters surveyed, 15% remained undecided.

But it snubs Markey, her former House colleague of decades. And it pits the House leader not just against progressives, but also against her close ally, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and several members of the Massachusetts delegation, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Markey reacted cordially to the news, saying in a statement, “Any candidate would be proud to have her endorsement, and I congratulate Congressman Kennedy on securing her support.”

But Justice Democrats, the group that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez’s rise, blasted the endorsement as “hypocrisy.”

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who is also backing Markey, tweeted, “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.”


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