Top Democratic Party leaders turned on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and refused to follow her lead Wednesday.
Last week, Pelosi endorsed Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III in his bid to unseat Sen. Edward Markey in a contentious Massachusetts Democratic primary. Markey is a veteran lawmaker with whom Pelosi has served in Congress since 1987.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-Calif., and Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., announced they were breaking with Pelosi and endorsed Markey.
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. She served alongside Markey for over 25 years.
Nadler and Maloney pushed back, endorsing Markey as a bold, progressive Washington insider.
“I know his character, and I know his leadership. There is no doubt in my mind that Ed Markey is the right candidate to fight for the working families in Massachusetts and bring bold, progressive ideas to Congress,” he told The Hill in a statement.
The Democratic infighting came after Markey used controversial attack ads against 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.”
President Kennedy was Joe Kennedy’s great-uncle. Joe Kennedy also vocally supporter Pelosi’s controversial bid to regain her role as House Speaker after Democrats won back control of the Congressional branch after the 2018 election.
The winner of the hard-fought Sept. 1 primary will be strongly favored to win the November election in the heavily Democratic state.
The move by Pelosi didn’t just anger high-profile Democratic Party leaders. Far-left socialist members of the party were openly upset with her support for Kennedy last week.
“This move reeks of hypocrisy,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of the grassroots group Justice Democrats, said in a statement. “The party is setting one standard for progressives and one entirely different standard for the establishment.”
“No one gets to complain about primary challenges again,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted over Pelosi’s endorsement of Kennedy.
The Sunrise Movement, a pro-environment group, called Pelosi’s endorsement “an embarrassment” that showed she thinks it’s acceptable to support a candidate “who has a rich and wealthy family.”
And liberal Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., tweeted that Pelosi’s support of Kennedy helps make Markey’s case “against dynasty and smoke-filled rooms anointing candidates.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article