Auchincloss wins primary in Massachusetts’ 4th District

Marine veteran poised to replace Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III

Jake Auchincloss attends a rally for affordable housing in Newton, Mass., on Aug. 23, 2020.  (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jake Auchincloss attends a rally for affordable housing in Newton, Mass., on Aug. 23, 2020. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Posted September 4, 2020 at 12:35pm

Jake Auchincloss narrowly edged out Jesse Mermell and a crowded field of fellow Democrats to win Tuesday’s primary in Massachusetts’ 4th District to pick Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III’s successor.

Auchincloss, a Newton City Council member who had the backing of a super PAC that collected political money from his family members, is poised to go to Congress next year from the deeply Democratic district that Kennedy ditched in favor of running for Senate. Kennedy lost his primary challenge Tuesday to incumbent Sen. Edward J. Markey. 

Republicans nominated Julie Hall, an Air Force veteran, who got 63 percent of the vote in a primary against David Rosa. Auchincloss, also a veteran, served in the U.S. Marines.

In the Democratic primary, Mermell came in a close second in the nine-candidate race, and the race was too close to call until Friday. Auchincloss took 22.4 percent of the vote to Mermell’s 21.1 percent after the vote-counting stretched through the week.

Mermell, a former aide to the state’s then-Gov. Deval Patrick and a one-time vice president for external affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, is viewed as a more progressive candidate than Auchincloss. 

Auchincloss, in a statement put out by his campaign while officials were tabulating the returns, called his opponents “talented, hardworking individuals” who campaigned during unprecedented times with “passion and purpose. I hope to partner with them for years to come.”

Though Auchincloss is favored to win the seat in November, progressive organizations may target the district for a primary challenge next cycle.

Mermell tweeted Friday to her supporters: “I’m sorry this didn’t work out the way we wanted. But I know you will be right back at it tomorrow, fighting for systemic change. I'll be right there with you.”

Family money

This year’s competitive primary attracted big money, including from an outside group with ties to Auchincloss kin.

Five of the candidates, including Auchincloss and Mermell, hauled in more than $1 million. The others were Alan Khazei, a founder of the education nonprofit group City Year; Becky Grossman, at-large city councilor in Newton; and Ihssane Leckey, a former special examiner at the Federal Reserve, who loaned her campaign $1 million, federal election records show.

Auchincloss disclosed holding about $353,000 in the bank as of Aug. 12, while Republican Hall reported just $20,000 as of that date.

The Democratic nominee also had the help of outside money. A super PAC dubbed Experienced Leadership Matters PAC spent more than $500,000 in support of Auchincloss. Donors to that group, which is not permitted to coordinate with the campaign, included Auchincloss’s mother, Laurie Glimcher, CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who contributed more than $100,000; his father, Hugh Auchincloss, who works at the National Institutes of Health and contributed at least $30,000, federal campaign records show.

Other donors to the PAC included Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots football team, disclosures show.

On the other side, the super PAC Women Vote!, connected to EMILY’s List, spent more than $400,000 against him.

The Auchincloss family also has something of a connection to the Kennedy clan: The grandfather of Jake Auchincloss was a first cousin, once removed, of Hugh D. Auchincloss, stepfather of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, according to a 1973 wedding announcement in the New York Times.