Another candidate endorses Mermell after quitting 4th District primary

SE Mass

SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — There’s been another shakeup in the race to replace Congressman Joe Kennedy, just six days before the Sept. 1 primary election.

Wellesley tech entrepreneur Chris Zannetos announced Wednesday afternoon he’s suspending his campaign and throwing his support behind Jesse Mermell, a former Brookline Select Board member and Deval Patrick adviser running on a progressive platform. Zannetos says his campaign team had determined there was no plausible path to victory for him.

Zannetos is the second 4th Congressional District candidate to drop out of the race and endorse Mermell in recent weeks, joining former Assistant Attorney General Dave Cavell. But Zannetos’s decision was more of a surprise to political observers, since he’d taken relatively moderate positions compared with Mermell during last week’s debate at Stonehill College.

“I entered this race late, and I really entered this race for one reason, and that is to address the fact that our economy works for those at the top and leaves everyone else behind,” Zannetos said in an interview. “This is the issue that is creating so much despair in our country and that is dividing our country. … Unfortunately, it’s been very hard to get that message through the noise.”

Zannetos gave a variety of reasons for supporting Mermell, highlighting the years she spent leading the Alliance for Business Leadership, a group that brings together progressive-minded executives in Greater Boston. He said he also received private assurances about her from some of his friends in the business world, and said he thinks she would take an “inclusive approach” in Congress.

“There are definitely some areas where we very much disagree on policy,” he said. “But the most important thing for me is to get progress on this issue [of inequality], and it’s clear to me from Jesse’s history and being able to interact with her during the campaign, she has the integrity and the focus to help people who are disenfranchised, and we have to have that focus.”

Mermell acknowledged that she and Zannetos disagree on some policies — including Medicare for All, which she supports and he opposes — but said they share a commitment to uplifting disadvantaged communities. “I think Chris and I are actually a logical match, with our backgrounds that come from slightly different areas but rooted in the same values,” she said.

Zannetos’s unexpected exit capped an eventful day in the 4th District primary, as the seven remaining candidates scramble to find enough support to prevail in a region that stretches from northern Fall River through the Attleboros and Taunton up to the Boston suburbs.

Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman — who is seen as one of the leading candidates in the race, along with Mermell and another Newton city councilor, Jake Auchincloss — suffered a legal defeat as Massachusetts’ highest court rejected her high-profile suit to extend the deadline when mail ballots must be at local elections offices in order to be counted. That deadline will remain Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.

Grossman admitted she was “disappointed” in the ruling, but said, “I’m proud of the fight we waged to ensure that every vote be counted, and for everyone to be able to cast ballots without jeopardizing their health and safety.”

Other candidates were crisscrossing the district on Wednesday. Auchincloss began his day in New Bedford, which is actually in the 9th Congressional District but where Mayor Jon Mitchell has endorsed him, saying voters’ choice in the 4th District will affect all of Southeastern Massachusetts. Auchincloss continued on to Fall River and Taunton.

Also making stops around the South Coast was City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who is touting his status as the only candidate with a specific plan for all 34 cities and towns in the 4th District. His campaign itinerary included Lakeville, Assonet, Freetown, Somerset, Swansea and Fall River.

The candidates and outside groups also continued to blanket 4th District communities with TV commercials, social media ads and mailers in an effort to win over undecided voters. Unite to Win, a super PAC supporting Khazei, disclosed spending another $195,000 to help him, bringing its outlay for the race to $411,000 so far, FEC reports show.

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

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