Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday endorsed Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III in his bid to unseat the state's incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, giving Kennedy a crucial boost in a tight Democratic primary race.

Why it matters: Her move comes as many on the left have called for fresher, younger faces to represent party leadership. The 74-year-old Markey is backed by progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and co-authored the Green New Deal.

  • Pelosi’s endorsement was a surprise to many in Washington, given she served 25 years with Markey in the House and the two have long been supportive of each other.

What she's saying: "Never before have the times demanded we elect courageous leaders as today, and that is why I am proud to endorse Joe Kennedy for Senate," Pelosi said in a video announcing her endorsement.

  • "Joe Kennedy represents this party’s future. He will help lead Democrats forward on the defining battles of our time," Pelosi added in a news release from Kennedy's campaign, per the Boston Globe.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Pelosi cited her family's close ties with the Kennedys, including former President John F. Kennedy, as one reason that she decided to get involved in the race.

  • "I wasn’t too happy with some of the assault that I saw made on the Kennedy family, and I thought, Joe didn’t ask me to endorse him, but I felt an imperative to do so," Pelosi said.

The other side: "Speaker Pelosi is an effective leader who has shattered glass ceilings throughout her career," Markey responded in a tweet Thursday. "I had the privilege to work alongside Nancy in the House for decades and any candidate would be proud to have her endorsement. I congratulate Joe Kennedy on securing her support."

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

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Why it matters: The ingredients are clear for all to see — epic fights over racism, abortion, elections, the virus and policing, stirred by misinformation and calls to action on social media, at a time of stress over the pandemic.