Who is — and isn’t — running for Joe Kennedy’s seat in Congress

The 4th District race is wide open, but filling up quick.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III departs the Capitol in Washington, D.C., last month.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s primary campaign against Sen. Ed Markey has opened up a vacuum in the Massachusetts congressman’s 4th District. And it’s sucking up Democratic candidates from Boston’s western suburbs.

The wide-open congressional primary in the wake of Kennedy’s run for Senate has already drawn a host of local elected officials and political aspirants hoping to capitalize on the rare opportunity. And while the southeastern Massachusetts district stretches down through the working-class cities of Fall River and Taunton, the earliest entrants into the race all hail from the district’s affluent northeastern arm.

That said, not everyone in Brookline is running (some of the candidates are from Newton). And this week brought the surprising news that Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg had reversed course and decided not to enter the race. Still, it’s shaping up to be crowded.


Here’s a guide to who is and is not running, as well as who is still deciding.


Ihssane Leckey

Who they are: Financial regulator for the Federal Reserve

Where do they live: Brookline

What have they done: Leckey’s biography cites her job holding Wall Street banks accountable and experience as a social activist as her main qualifications. A Moroccan immigrant, Leckey was the first in her family to graduate from college, according to her campaign website — specifically, Boston University.

What have they said about running: Leckey announced her campaign in May (before Kennedy was running for Senate), highlighting three main agenda items: universal family care, a Green New Deal, and Medicare for All. “Through individual and collective action, Ihssane is determined to reinvigorate our democracy,” says her campaign website. “She is building partnerships across this district to carry our voices into the halls of D.C.. As someone with powerful lived experiences, we can trust her to lead on the issues of our time.”

Becky Grossman

Who they are: Newton city councilor

Where do they live: Newton

What have they done: Before her election to the city council in 2017, Grossman was a prosecutor for Middlesex County and worked for the law firm Goodwin Procter. She received her undergraduate economics degree from Cornell University and earned law and business degrees from Harvard.


What have they said about running: Grossman announced her congressional bid three days after the official launch of Kennedy’s Senate run last month. “The NRA is threatening our kids’ safety at school,” says her campaign website. “Our climate is under constant attack. Drug companies are charging thousands of dollars for prescription drugs that people like my mom need to stay alive. And Donald Trump is tearing up Obamacare and going after Planned Parenthood. If there was ever a time to step up and fight, it’s now.”

Alan Khazei

Who they are: Social entrepreneur

Where do they live: Brookline

What have they done: Khazei co-founded the education nonprofit City Year shortly after graduating from Harvard and has gone on to be a leading advocate of civil service programs. He also previously ran for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2010 and 2012.

What have they said about running: Khazei announced his campaign four days after Kennedy kicked off his Senate run. “This is the worst and best of times for our country,” he wrote in his announcement. “It is the worst of times, because Donald Trump is an existential threat to our democracy and the promise set forth in the Preamble to our Constitution: to form a more perfect union. But, more importantly, it is the best of times because of the response of millions of people who are standing up for each other, our country, and the very best of America.”


Jesse Mermell

Who they are: President of the Alliance for Business Leadership (until recently)

Where do they live: Brookline

What have they done: Before she joined ABL, Mermell worked as the communications director for Gov. Deval Patrick and was the youngest-ever member of the Brookline Select Board. The Boston College alum has also held leadership positions for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, and the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. She is also a “close friend” of Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

What have they said about running: Mermell resigned from her position as head of ABL to run for Kennedy’s seat and made her campaign official Wednesday at an event in Fall River. “I’m running for Congress because the people, places, and progress we love are under attack,” she said in her announcement video. “The people of the 4th Congressional District deserve a congresswoman who won’t just fight against what’s wrong in Washington, but will fight for the future that we deserve. I’ve built a 20-year career doing just that.”

Jake Auchincloss

Who they are: Newton city councilor

Where do they live: Newton

What have they done: Before his election to the city council in 2015, Auchinloss was a Marine captain who led combat troops in Afghanistan and a reconnaissance unit in Panama. As a city councilor, the Newton native and Harvard alum has made progressive transportation policy one of his major casues.

What have they said about running: In his campaign announcement Thursday, he fore-fronted his support for a Green New Deal to further transportation goals. “Here at home, I worked together with neighbors to create more equal opportunity for all,” Auchincloss wrote. “I’m running for Congress to lead from the front once more. The stage is bigger and the stakes are higher, but my commitment is the same: to our common values of service and opportunity.”

Maybe running

David Cavell


Who they are: Senior adviser to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (until recently)

Where do they live: Brookline

What have they done: Before Cavell joined Healey’s office in 2017, he worked as a speechwriter for President Barack Obama for more than a year (and also was a speechwriting intern for the White House and Justice Department in 2011). The Brookline native and Tufts grad also worked in Patrick’s communications office from 2007 to 2010.

What have they said about running: So far, not much. However, Politico reported Wednesday that he recently left Healey’s office to “prepare a campaign.”

Jay Gonzalez

Who they are: 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and partner at Hinkley Allen

Where do the live: Needham

What have they done: Gonzalez lost to incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker in last year’s Massachusetts gubernatorial election. Prior to the campaign, he was the state’s budget chief under Patrick, before leaving the administration to become the CEO of the health insurance company CeltiCare.

What have they said about running: Politico reported last week that he “has made at least one phone call regarding the congressional race in the last several days,” but otherwise he hasn’t publicly expressed interest in the race.

Patricia Haddad

Who they are: State representative

Where do they live: Somerset

What have they done: Having served nearly two decades in the State House, Haddad serves as the chamber’s speaker pro tempore and would present an option from the 4th District’s southern region. Prior to her career as a state rep, she worked as a teacher in Somerset and served on the South Coast town’s school committee.


What have they said about running: Haddad told The Boston Globe last month that it is “almost political malpractice,” noting that all the other candidates hailed from the Boston suburbs rather than the southern end of the district. “I’m not going to dismiss [running] out of hand, but I’m not ready to jump in with both feet,” she said.

Not running

Becca Rausch

Who they are: State senator

Where do they live: Needham

What have they said about running: “I’m staying right here in the state Senate, where I will continue to be an effective agent of positive change for the residents of the district and the Commonwealth at large,” Rausch said in a statement last month, via The Sun Chronicle.

Tommy Vitolo

Who they are: State representative

Where do they live: Brookline

What have they said about running: “I’ve thought carefully about the possibility of running for Congress and have discussed the idea with my loved ones,” Vitolo said in a press release last week, via Patch. “I’m staying right here in Brookline, and will run for reelection to continue serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives

Chris Dempsey

Who they are: Director of Transportation for Massachusetts

Where do the live: Brookline

What have they said about running: In a letter to members of his transportation advocacy group, Dempsey said he was humbled by the support, but decided agaisnt pursuing a campaign. “A critical part of my decision is the opportunity to continue the important work we are doing together at Transportation for Massachusetts,” he wrote, per NBC Boston. “Given the transportation crisis facing the Commonwealth, it is essential that we continue the momentum we have created and the progress we have achieved in the past two years.”


Paul Feeney

Who they are: State senator

Where do they live: Foxborough

What have they said about running: “I want to continue working hard to fight for working families, to stand up for women’s rights, to end income inequality and grow our middle-class, to eliminate homelessness, to advocate for universal healthcare, to improve public education and eliminate student debt, to keep our communities safe and to protect our environment,” he said in a statement to supporters last week, according to The Sun Chronicle. “I am able to do that now in the state Senate, a job that I treasure, for constituents that I feel honored to serve.”

Deb Goldberg

Who they are: Massachusetts state treasurer

Where do they live: Brookline

What havethey said about running: Goldberg went as far as filing campaign paperwork, polling the field, and — according to the Globe — even printing bumper stickers. But ultimately she decided she couldn’t walk away from her work as treasurer. “I was going to run because I knew I could be a direct and unambiguous voice that would cut through the noise,” Goldberg said in a statement, per State House News Service. “However, our work here is too important and I will find a new avenue to combat the injustice I see in our country and our world today.”