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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."

Go deeper

Biden's Day 1: Stimulus stall

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A host of alarming new signs suggest that the U.S. economy is on track to deteriorate even faster than had been forecast. A huge reason: A year-end COVID rescue package now looks unlikely.

Why it matters: One of the biggest failures of the current administration and Congress will be a Day One problem for President-elect Joe Biden — and an urgent test of his theory that Republicans will be more willing to work with him once President Trump is gone.

Japan to release Fukushima water into sea

People near storage tanks for radioactive water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, in 2020. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japan's government on Tuesday announced plans to release more than 1 million metric tons of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant in the Pacific Ocean following a treatment process.

Why it matters: While the Biden administration has said Japan appears to have met globally accepted nuclear safety standards, officials in South Korea, China and Taiwan, local residents, those in the fishing industry and green groups oppose the plans, due to begin in about two years, per the Guardian.

In photos: Twin Cities on edge after Daunte Wright shooting

Demonstrators shout "Don't shoot" at the police after curfew on April 12 as they protest the death of Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a day earlier. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

There were tense scenes in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center Monday night, after demonstrators defied a 7 p.m. curfew to protest for a second night the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.

The big picture: The curfew was announced following a night of protests and unrest over the killing of Wright, 20, during a traffic stop Sunday. Following peaceful protests and a daytime vigil, police again deployed tear gas during clashes with protesters Monday night, according to reporters on the scene.