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Ayanna Pressley endorses Jesse Mermell in race to succeed Joe Kennedy III in Congress

Representative Ayanna Pressley in Washington in September. Zach Gibson/Getty Images/Getty Images

One of the six Democrats running to succeed Joseph P. Kennedy III in Congress just got a major boost.

Representative Ayanna Pressley on Tuesday said she is endorsing Jesse Mermell, a former Deval Patrick aide and Brookline selectwoman running for the Fourth District seat.

The two women are longtime friends, so Pressley’s nod was widely expected. But the endorsement is still significant given Pressley’s national prominence and stature among liberal voters. Her backing could prove to be influential in a district with large swaths of progressive voters in places such as Newton and Brookline.

“Congresswoman Pressley is a force for good, a force for people and a force of nature and I couldn’t be more honored to have earned her support in this campaign,” Mermell said in a statement.


The announcement is one of several Pressley unveiled Tuesday in her first formal federal endorsements of the cycle. She’s backing four incumbents, one challenger in a Democratic primary, and Mermell, who is running for the seat that opened up when Kennedy said he is running for Senate.

The challenger is Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration attorney who is running in Texas as a liberal alternative to Representative Henry Cuellar, considered one of the most conservative members of the Democratic House caucus.

Cisneros has won endorsements from other progressive party figures, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Pressley’s fellow “Squad” member, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Much of the party establishment is backing Cuellar, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The presence of just one candidate looking to unseat a longtime incumbent — as Pressley herself did in 2018, when she toppled Mike Capuano — illustrates how deliberate Pressley is when it comes to spending her political capital, even as she frequently grabs headlines.

Also noteworthy is who has not yet won an endorsement from Pressley — namely anyone running to be the Democratic presidential standard-bearer next year.


The other three members of the all-female first-year quartet known as “the Squad,” recently endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Pressley hasn’t given any indication of whom she will back, or when she might announce a presidential endorsement.

She’s made clear that she has no plans to wade into the testy waters of another high-profile race in Massachusetts: The primary battle between Kennedy and the incumbent he wants to replace, Senator Edward J. Markey.

The four House incumbents Pressley is endorsing are Representatives Lori Trahan of Lowell, who faces a potential Democratic primary rematch from Dan Koh; Barbara Lee of California, whom Pressley considers a mentor; Joe Neguse of Colorado, a freshman and the first African-American elected to Congress in the state; and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, a longtime progressive member whose district includes a big chunk of Portland.

“Our country is at a crossroads,” Pressley said in a statement. “We find ourselves in unprecedented times — times that demand unprecedented organizing, unprecedented advocacy, and unprecedented legislating. Each of these leaders has shown a passing for lifting up the voices of he people they represent . . . Their bold leadership is vital to making real progress for our communities.”

Trahan said in a statement that she was “honored to have her support in my re-election effort so that we can continue our work in Congress to advance our shared progressive values.”

Victoria McGrane can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.