Political News

Jake Auchincloss wins Democratic primary for Kennedy's House seat in Massachusetts

Posted September 4, 2020 7:10 p.m. EDT

— Jake Auchincloss, a 32-year-old formerly registered Republican, won a tough nine-way Democratic primary to likely succeed the outgoing Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy.

The Marine veteran and Newton city councilor ran as an "Obama-Baker" Democrat, referring to the former president and current popular Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, describing himself as someone who could lead during a time of crisis. He beat, among others, Jesse Mermell, a progressive Democrat endorsed by Rep. Ayanna Pressley and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and overcame the opposition of a group affiliated with EMILY's List, which aims to elect women supportive of abortion rights.

Mermell and other top contenders conceded the race after Tuesday's vote.

The seat for the district, which includes parts of the Boston suburbs and southern Massachusetts, became open after Kennedy launched a primary campaign against Democratic Sen. Ed Markey. The senator won on Tuesday by positioning himself as the progressive champion.

But the state's 4th Congressional District went with Auchincloss over more liberal challengers like Mermell, who supports single-payer health care and the Green New Deal. Auchincloss supports a public health care option and other measures to address climate change. He received The Boston Globe's endorsement after saying he would prioritize "federal relief for local budgets" to help the state provide education services and improve its infrastructure.

The race was marked not only by the top two candidates' ideological clash but also by the difficulties of voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Debra O'Malley, spokesperson for Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, told CNN more than 3,000 ballots were not initially counted, which potentially could have changed the outcome of the race.

O'Malley said that the majority ballots that were found, from Franklin, went uncounted due to an "oversight of the Franklin town clerk." She said the secretary of state's office "will be heavily involved in many towns to make sure it doesn't happen again." The other ballots that the secretary's office found, from Newton and Wellesley, hadn't been counted because they came from dropboxes where voters were submitted ballots "at the last minute," according to O'Malley, and which weren't sent to be counted in time.

Massachusetts law was changed to allow votes to be counted up to three days after Election Day in November, but that change didn't take effect in time for the primary. As a result, the secretary of state's office secured a court order that allowed those ballots found to be counted after Election Day.

O'Malley said that the ballots "did not change the order of the candidates," and Auchincloss' opponents have conceded, but said her office "will be heavily involved in many towns to make sure it doesn't happen again" this fall.

In Mermell's concession on Friday, she congratulated Auchincloss on his victory. Auchincloss thanked her and tweeted that Democrats must unite to defeat Republican Julie Hall in the fall.

"We must rally behind Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to defeat the Trump agenda and get to work rebuilding this country: its institutions, its confidence, and its commitment to justice," tweeted Auchincloss on Friday. "That work starts here at home. There's much to be done across our district, and it should begin by focusing on an inclusive and equitable economic recovery for all of the Massachusetts Fourth. We must leave no one behind."

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