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9 now running to replace Kennedy – all from Brookline, Newton


SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — The number of Democrats running to succeed Congressman Joe Kennedy rose to nine on Tuesday, but the entire field still hails from just two of the district’s 34 communities.

Former Massachusetts Comptroller Tom Shack, a 54-year-old Brookline resident, announced his candidacy for the 4th Congressional District in a news release. The seat is opening up because Kennedy is mounting a U.S. Senate primary challenge against incumbent Ed Markey.

Shack is the sixth Brookline resident to jump into the race — even though the town’s population represents only about 8% of the district, which stretches down through the Attleboros and Taunton into Fall River. The other Brookliners running are City Year founder Alan Khazei, former Brookline Town Council member Jesse Mermell, former Obama White House staffer Dave Cavell, former Federal Reserve official Ihssane Leckey and lawyer Ben Sigel.

In addition, two members of the Newton City Council — Jake Auchincloss and Becky Grossman — are also running for the seat. A third Newton resident, Herb Robinson, has also filed candidacy papers with the Federal Elections Commission.

No polling has been conducted in the primary so far. Federal filings show the financial leader in the contest as of Dec. 31 was Khazei, who has raised about $800,000 since jumping into the race, followed by Auchincloss, Grossman, Mermell, Cavell and Leckey.

The crowded but geographically limited field will likely present a challenge to all the campaigns as they seek to differentiate themselves and reach voters spread across two TV markets.

“I expect this to be a fairly low information, low visibility race,” Shannon Jenkins, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, told WPRI 12. “With coverage of the Trump administration, the 2020 presidential contest, and even the Senate race, it will be hard for news about this race to break through.”

Jenkins said the fact that all the announced candidates come from the same place makes it more likely they’ll split the vote in the northern part of the 4th District.

“That leaves a big opening for candidates to emerge in the southern part of the district, particularly Bristol County,” she said. “There’s a long way to go before the filing deadline though, so I expect candidates from that part of the district will emerge too.”

Candidates have until May 5 to submit nomination papers for the 4th District seat. The primary is Sept. 1.

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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