4th District race heats up as Grossman, Auchincloss tout new Fall River support

SE Mass

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — With four months to go before voters cast their ballots, two of the top Democrats vying to succeed Congressman Joe Kennedy III are touting new endorsements in Fall River.

Among the crowded field of 4th Congressional District candidates, Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman appears to be leading the pack in Fall River backers. She is rolling out endorsements this week from City Council Vice President Pam Laliberte-Lebeau, City Councilor Linda Pereira, former City Councilor Dave Dennis, and former Democratic City Committee Chair Sandy Dennis.

“Becky’s platform for ‘One District, One Economy’ – strengthening the interconnections between all parts of our district with respect to transportation and economic development – will put the 4th District on the right path toward building an economy that works for everyone,” Sandy Dennis said.

State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, the Fall River Democrat who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and former Mass. Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Menard, who was a longtime state lawmaker for the city, are both already backing Grossman.

“I’m honored to earn the support of so many Fall River leaders and I look forward to working with them to build an economy that works for everyone,” Grossman said in a statement.

Also announcing a new endorsement out of Fall River this week is Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss, who said he has picked up the support of state Rep. Paul Schmid, a Westport Democrat and fellow U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose district includes a portion of the city.

“Jake has paid attention to Fall River,” Schmid said in a statement. “I have no doubt that he will be an active partner at the federal level. I support him enthusiastically.”

Lining up high-profile supporters in the Spindle City could help the candidates differentiate themselves in a pack of hopefuls hailing from the wealthy Boston suburbs of Newton and Brookline. The 4th District, which Kennedy first won in 2012, stretches down through the Attleboros and Taunton into the northern section of Fall River.

Shannon Jenkins, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, noted a 2011 study which found “that a primary candidate’s share of endorsements from fellow party members increases their vote share. So that to me seems to suggest that these endorsements do matter.”

As for whether the identities of individual endorsers matter, Jenkins said, “That’s a more difficult question to answer, but I suspect that in a low-information election like this, endorsements from someone a voter is familiar with may matter.”

A spokesperson for a third high-profile Democratic candidate, entrepreneur Alan Khazei, said he would have Fall River endorsements to announce soon but was not ready to share them.

Grossman, Auchincloss and Khazei all say they’ve got enough certified signatures to make the Sept. 1 primary ballot, as do two other Democrats — former Brookline Select Board member Jesse Mermell and former Assistant Attorney General Dave Cavell.

U.S. Federal Election Commission filings show those same five Democrats have also raised the most money in the race so far, starting with Khazei and Auchincloss — who have each taken in over $1 million — followed by Grossman, Mermell and Cavell. At least seven other Democrats have announced plans to run in the 4th District primary, too.

State Rep. Pat Haddad, an influential Somerset Democrat who herself had been mentioned as a potential candidate in the race, said she remains undecided about who to support.

“A number of them have made pitches to me but frankly none of them have really sold me,” Haddad told WPRI 12 in an email.

While she praised the hopefuls she’s had conversations with as smart and earnest, Haddad said, “With all of the candidates from the northern part of the district I’m not sure any of them are really tuned into the southern end of the district. It is very different from where they all live. It’s going to be very difficult for me to ultimately make that decision.”

Meanwhile, a potential Republican candidate for the 4th District seat has now emerged, as well: former Attleboro City Councilor Julie Hall, who previously made two unsuccessful runs against state Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro. Hall said Monday she has turned in over 1,700 signatures for city and town clerks to certify, well over the 1,000 required following a high court decision last month.

“Should I get certified and know I am on the ballot, I will be launching my campaign full force,” Hall told WPRI 12. “So far, I am the only Republican close to getting certified for District 4,” she added.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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