WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley is endorsing against a House Democratic colleague and in her state’s crowded Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Joe Kennedy III.
Pressley on Tuesday announced she intends to support Jesse Mermell, a progressive activist, in the crowded race to replace Kennedy, who is running for Senate. Mermell is a former nonprofit administrator who served as a top aide to former Gov. Deval L. Patrick.
The move makes good on Pressley’s promise to enter the political fray ahead of the 2020 elections, while immediately changing the landscape of what is shaping up to be one of the more hotly contested House Democratic primaries in the country. The seat became open when Kennedy, who has held the seat since 2012, announced he would challenge Sen. Ed Markey. All told, there are six candidates running for Kennedy's seat.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Mermell said, “For nearly 20 years, I have been moved by the passion and power of Ayanna Pressley and to have her as my first major endorsement in this young campaign is deeply meaningful to me. Our friendship has many of its roots in a shared love for service and a shared commitment to progressive values. I’d be honored to serve alongside her while representing the voices and issues critical to the Fourth District in Congress.”
Pressley also announced her support of Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration and human rights attorney running against Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar. (Cisneros points out that Cuellar has voted with Trump nearly 70% of the time, while the congressman contends that his district is more moderate than people think.)
Saying she was filled with “pride” and “humility,” Cisneros called Pressley “one of the most outspoken advocates for the disenfranchised” in Congress.
“In 2018, Congresswoman Pressley’s victory was fueled by a people-powered coalition, similar to what we’re building in South Texas. I am grateful and proud to have her support and look forward to serving with her in Congress.”
Pressley will back four incumbent candidates: Rep. Lori Trahan, who represents Massachusetts’ 3rd congressional district, as well as Rep. Barbara Lee of California, Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
"Each of these leaders has shown a passion for lifting up the voices of the people they represent and, in partnership with community, have been passionate and committed advocates on issues ranging from the right to access reproductive health care to housing justice to the rights of workers, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community,” Pressley said a statement.
Pressley has built a national profile in just under a year in Congress after her historic primary challenge to former Rep. Mike Capuano in 2018. She has emerged as a leader of a group of young House Democrats nicknamed “the squad,” consisting of Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
The three other “squad” members endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign this month, raising eyebrows among some observers who assumed that Pressley’s 2020 decision would be made in lockstep with the group.
It's not clear when Pressley might chime in on 2020, but her latest endorsements come as she's about to lose a key congressional ally.
Rep. Katie Hill, who was a rising star known for her popularity with young voters, announced Sunday that she was resigning from Congress after allegations surfaced that she had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a member of her staff and naked photos of her were released online.
In an office lottery last December, Hill drew the space that had once belonged to Shirley Chisholm and gifted it to Pressley, who in turn tweeted that the office swap was “divine intervention” made possible by the “selflessness of my colleague who drew a better lottery# but still wanted me to have it.”