SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — In another sign that she has become a serious contender to succeed Congressman Joe Kennedy III, Democrat Ihssane Leckey is rolling out a second TV ad on Monday that seeks to reinforce her pitch to the party’s left.

Leckey — who entered the race more than a year ago, when Kennedy was still expected to seek re-election rather than challenge U.S. Sen. Ed Markey — has vaulted into the top tier of the 4th Congressional District primary by pumping $800,000 of her own money into her campaign. The Democratic Socialists of America’s Boston chapter and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar have endorsed her.

The new campaign ad, titled “Courage” and narrated by Leckey, first takes aim at the policies President Trump and Congress have put in place to deal with the coronavirus crisis. “As the only woman of color in this race,” Leckey says, “I’m fighting for racial justice, to guarantee health care, free pre-K, and housing for all.”

Josh Miller-Lewis, a spokesperson for Leckey, said the new spot will be airing as part of a six-figure ad buy on TV and digital platforms over the next few weeks.

“According to our internal numbers, Ihssane has surged over the past month and is now the leading progressive in the race,” Miller-Lewis told WPRI 12. “People across this district want a congresswoman who represents our diversity and courage, who has the lived experiences to lead with compassion, and who is not afraid to take on corruption and corporate greed.”

Leckey’s rise could pose a particular challenge for Democratic rival Jesse Mermell, a former Brookline Select Board and Deval Patrick adviser who has been working to consolidate progressive voters. While Mermell has earned an impressive number of endorsements, including from major labor unions, she has less money and has not yet gone on the air with TV commercials.

Mermell’s campaign rolled out an endorsement Sunday night from State Auditor Suzanne Bump, the first statewide elected official to endorse in the race, in a Boston Globe story.

Leckey and Mermell are two of nine Democrats seeking the 4th District nomination in the Sept. 1 primary. Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss, a Marine veteran positioned closer to the center, is increasingly viewed as a frontrunner in the race, though officials on multiple campaigns privately say it remains wide open because many voters haven’t made up their minds.

Still, Miller-Lewis argued the 4th District primary “is coming down to a choice” between Auchincloss and Leckey — an assertion the other campaigns would strongly contest.

Time is growing short for the candidates: the election is likely to be mostly decided by mail ballots, which were expected to begin arriving in voters’ mailboxes last week. The oddly drawn district stretches from northern Fall River through the Attleboros and Taunton up to the wealthy Boston suburbs of Newton, Brookline and Wellesley, the hometowns of all nine candidates.

Among the other candidates, Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman is also generally seen as a strong prospect, and she’s pumped a significant amount of her own money into airing a TV ad about her frustration as a mom over school shootings. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and tech entrepreneur Chris Zannetos are also airing TV commercials to bolster their candidacies.

Three other Democrats — Dr. Natalia Linos, former Assistant Attorney General Dave Cavell and lawyer Ben Sigel — are also actively campaigning for the 4th District nomination. The victor will face the winner of the Republican primary between Julie Hall and David Rosa in the November election.

Ted Nesi ( 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