Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III picked up some notable endorsements from House colleagues in his primary race against Senator Edward J. Markey, gaining the backing of several high-profile Democrats, including the civil rights icon John Lewis.
“In the years that I have known Joe Kennedy I have seen him stand up and fight — time and again — for the suffering, the struggling, and the silenced,’’ said the 79-year-old Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who was a pivotal player in the civil rights movement.
“At a moment of profound national crisis, Joe offers our country the kind of powerful moral leadership it needs,’’ Lewis said. “He is a clear voice for justice and dignity in our rising generation of public servants. I am proud to endorse his run for the US Senate.’’
Kennedy also announced endorsements from more than a dozen other House Democrats who represent varying points on the political spectrum.
These newly announced supporters include Representatives Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, cochair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and twin brother of former presidential hopeful Julián Castro; and Conor Lamb, a former Marine who won a major upset victory in a March 2018 special election for a southwestern Pennsylvania House seat in a district where President Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.
The Lewis endorsement, however, is a coup that could help Kennedy push back against arguments he is not as progressive as Markey.
Lewis, who recently said he has advanced pancreatic cancer, has been called the “conscience of the Congress’’ for his role in the struggles of the civil rights era.
He led hundreds of protesters in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Then 25, Lewis was at the head of the marchers when he was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. His skull was fractured, and nationally televised images of the brutality put the country’s attention on racial oppression in the South. Lewis also joined King and four other civil rights leaders to organize the 1963 March on Washington. There, he spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his famed “I Have a Dream’’ speech.
Lewis turned to politics in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He won a seat in Congress in 1986 and has served since.
Markey, too, has pulled support from his colleagues. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic leader, is backing the Malden Democrat and was a special guest at a big-dollar fund-raiser last month.