Nesi’s Notes: Aug. 29

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Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to and follow @tednesi on Twitter.

1. If you believe the polls, Joe Kennedy is at serious risk of losing his U.S. Senate primary challenge against Ed Markey on Tuesday. But if you believe Joe Kennedy, he’s still very much in the hunt. “With all due respect to any pollster at the moment, I wouldn’t trust any of them – I don’t trust my own,” Kennedy told me Friday after touring Amaral’s Central Market in Fall River. “This race and this moment is unprecedented on a number of levels.” He has a point: with most ballots being cast by mail for the first time ever amid a global pandemic, there’s an unusual amount of uncertainty surrounding the makeup of the electorate. Kennedy allies acknowledge Markey has run a strong campaign and built a devout base of support among progressives, but insist that higher turnout will benefit Kennedy by making the electorate less affluent and more diverse. They also take heart from Kennedy campaign manager Nick Clemons’ track record piloting Hillary Clinton’s back-from-the-dead victory in New Hampshire back in 2008. The Markey team, meanwhile, is basking in their momentum but adamant that they’re not overconfident. “We’re taking nothing for granted,” Markey told reporters Friday after a rally in New Bedford. “We believe this race is close.” When I pressed the longtime lawmaker about how it feels to be a potential Kennedy slayer, he refused to take the bait. “I can only run as a Markey from Malden, and that’s what I’m doing,” he said, repeating one of his favorite campaign themes. Even if Markey loses, he has proven to be a worthy adversary for the first family of Massachusetts politics. And if he wins, the entire country will take notice.

2. An observation after watching Ed Markey up close for months now: he reminds me a bit of Lincoln Chafee.

3. Democrats in Massachusetts’ congressional delegation reliably win re-election. The only recent exceptions are John Tierney, defeated by Seth Moulton in the 2014 primary after Tierney’s wife’s felony tax conviction, and Mike Capuano, swept out in the 2018 primary by Ayanna Pressley’s we-can’t-wait message. That history lesson helps explain why Tuesday’s 4th Congressional District primary to replace Joe Kennedy is consequential — even if three out of four voters don’t vote for the winner, he or she will become an instant favorite to serve in Congress for years. Jesse Mermell continued to build momentum in the final week, getting an unexpected endorsement from erstwhile rival Chris Zannetos and facing more fire from her other opponents. Jake Auchincloss is still seen as a strong contender, with even more claim to the moderate mantle after Zannetos’s exit. Becky Grossman hasn’t let up, either, and the other four candidates — Alan Khazei, Ihssane Leckey, Natalia Linos and Ben Sigel — have all been running hard down the stretch. Something else to keep in mind: with this many candidates, there may not be many votes separating the first and second place finishers come Tuesday night. As Politico’s Steph Murray notes, “The last time a House seat opened up in Massachusetts, Rep. Lori Trahan won a similarly crowded primary by fewer than 150 votes. Second-place finisher Dan Koh called for a recount, and the process took about two weeks.”

4. We’re all used to usually knowing the winners on the night of the election, but there’s much more uncertainty about that this year with so many voters casting their ballots by mail. Yet Bristol County elections officials I contacted late this week expressed confidence they will be able to count the votes quickly, despite the change in procedure. Officials in three of the region’s four cities — New Bedford, Fall River and Attleboro — all said they expect to finish counting the mail ballots Tuesday night, suggesting there may not be as much delay in figuring out who won as some expect. (No word yet from Bristol County’s other city, Taunton.)

5. All the excitement across the border in Massachusetts only underscores the comparative stability in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation. It’s now been an entire decade since any of the state’s four seats were open, going back to when David Cicilline succeeded Patrick Kennedy in 2010. Sheldon Whitehouse has been in office since 2007, Jim Langevin since 2001, and Jack Reed since 1997 (or 1991 if you include Reed’s time in the House). Thus the 2010s are the first time Rhode Island has had the same congressional delegation for a full decade since the 1950s, when U.S. Sens. John Pastore and T.F. Green served alongside Congressmen Aime Forand and John Fogarty for 10 straight years. And the Rhode Island Democratic Party has still never sent a woman to represent the state in Congress.

6. Speaking of Congressman Cicilline, three quick items on him … Team Cicilline has tapped PC grad Anthony Cherry, a Gina Raimondo and Mayforth Group alum, as his 2020 campaign manager … his much-awaited antitrust investigation into Facebook, Amazon and other tech giants is expected to result in recommendations as soon as next month … and The Hill reports he’s battling Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark for the job of assistant House speaker, fourth-ranking role in their caucus.

7. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio plans to seek another term leading his chamber in 2021 — but first he has to get past his progressive primary challenger in District 4, Lenny Cioe. My colleague Steph Machado talked to Ruggerio and Cioe for a new episode of’s Pulse of Providence, and you can catch the full interviews here.

8. The Rhode Island elite just raised over $1 million for the Biden-Harris ticket.

9. Eli Sherman explains why Rhode Islanders still can’t travel to Massachusetts.

10. Kim Kalunian explores the 2010 murder of Scott Jenschke in Pawtucket for the latest edition of the Cold Case Cards.

11. Trust me: you’re going to want to watch WPRI 12 on Monday at 5 p.m.

12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – meet the seven Democrats running for Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District; a primary preview featuring Steph Murray and Shannon Jenkins. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. Podcast lovers, you can subscribe to both shows on iTunes — get the Newsmakers podcast here and the Executive Suite podcast here — and radio listeners can catch them back-to-back Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. See you back here next Saturday morning.

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

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