In victory, Auchincloss calls himself ‘pragmatic progressive’

Mermell concedes defeat, to focus on electing Biden

JAKE AUCHICLOSS declared victory in the 4th District Congressional race on Friday, promising to lead as a “pragmatic progressive,” hours after his closest opponent, Jesse Mermell, conceded defeat.

“Over the course of this race, there emerged a narrative that cast me as a centrist and Jesse and the field as the progressives. And it’s time to put that narrative to bed,” Auchincloss said, speaking to reporters outside Newton City Hall. “I am a pragmatic progressive, and I will act as such in Congress.”

Tuesday’s Democratic primary stretched into early Friday morning as the final ballots were only counted at 1:30 a.m.

The final count showed Auchincloss winning with 34,971 votes, or 22.4 percent, and Mermell with 32,938 votes, or 21.1 percent, a difference of around 2,000 votes. Becky Grossman came in third with 18 percent of the vote, followed by Natalia Linos and Ihssane Leckey, each with 11 percent, Alan Khazei with 9 percent, and Ben Sigel with less than 2 percent.

Mermell called Auchincloss before noon on Friday to concede the race and congratulate him.

She posted a video on Facebook and Twitter at noon on Friday thanking her supporters. But Mermell stopped short of endorsing Auchincloss, who she panned during her campaign as “a Republican operative who has been doing work that flies in the face of the values of this district.”

Instead, Mermell said, she and her supporters will be working to elect Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. She said she will also continue to advocate for the policies she touted in her campaign such as Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, paid family and medical leave, and dismantling systemic racism.

Auchincloss said he has “enormous respect for the passion and purpose” Mermell brought to the race. “Jesse just conceded an hour ago. I think she deserves time to think about this race, and I’m happy to give her the time and space she needs,” Auchincloss said.

Auchincloss will face Republican Julie Hall, a US Air Force veteran and former Attleboro city councilor, in the general election. The district leans heavily Democratic. Auchincloss described Hall as someone who “stands for the same values we see in the president of the US, values that are antithetical to this country.”

Auchincloss, 32, a Marine Corps veteran and Newton city councilor, focused most of his ire on Republican President Donald Trump. Auchincloss referenced a recent report that Trump called soldiers who were killed and injured in war “losers” and “suckers.”

“That statement from this president stands on its own as a demonstration of his manifest unfitness for the office he holds,” Auchincloss said. “He embarrasses his country and denigrates the Oval Office.”

Auchincloss was opposed by many progressive Democrats during the campaign, who were concerned about past controversial statements he made and about his work for Republican Gov. Charlie Baker during the governor’s 2014 campaign. Auchincloss described himself as an “Obama-Baker voter.” Asked if he will reach out particularly to progressives, Auchincloss said he will reach out to all groups in the district to discuss issues ranging from economic recovery to racial justice.

Auchincloss stressed his progressive credentials – his support for carbon pricing, for an assault weapons ban, and for free public transit. He also described himself as “pragmatic” – language also used by Baker, who has distanced himself from Trump and described himself recently as a member of the “pragmatic and practical Republican Party.”

The delays in getting a final result were due to problems in at least three towns, but primarily in Newton and Franklin, which led to ballots going uncounted on primary night.

Mermell, in her concession video, raised questions about the voting process.

“The fact that votes cast over a one-month period were still being counted at almost 2 o’clock this morning, nearly 54 hours after the polls closed, indicates that we have some work to do to make sure that our democracy operates smoothly,” Mermell said. “And we better get at that quickly because November will be here before we know it.”

Mermell praised voting by mail, but said, “We have to live up to a better standard if we’re going to continue to say that every vote should count.”

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin went to court Wednesday to require Franklin, Newton, and Wellesley to continue counting ballots after primary day, counts that were conducted on Thursday. Galvin said Wellesley had fewer than 100 ballots that were uncounted. Newton had around 700 ballots, all of which arrived at a municipal drop-box after 5 p.m. on primary day.

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Franklin had 3,000 uncounted ballots, a problem Galvin, in his court filing, blamed on early ballots that were mistakenly left in a vault. On Friday, Galvin said there were “administrative inconsistencies” in Franklin, and his office actually took over the vote count, bringing in clerks from other communities to help. “I believe that what we saw in Franklin was unique to Franklin, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other places. It re-intensifies our need to have very strict procedures going into November,” Galvin said.

Overall, Galvin said he believes Tuesday’s election was successful, with record turnout that exceeded 1.6 million. Although there were glitches related to things like voters not getting mail-in ballots, Galvin said he will use the days before the November election to “improve the process problems that we saw.”