A quick guide to the crowded, toss-up Massachusetts 4th District primary race

Meet the candidates vying to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy III.

Clockwise, from top left: Becky Grossman, Jake Auchincloss, Alan Khazei, Dave Cavell, Ihssane Leckey, Christopher Zannetos, Natalia Linos, Ben Sigel, and Jesse Mermell. Cavell and Zannetos have suspended their campaigns. Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe

The Democratic primary to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy III in Congress has gotten a bit less crowded (and ever more contentious) in recent weeks.

But by all accounts, the seven-candidate race remains a tight one. And whichever candidate comes out on top is likely to go on to represent the solidly Democratic 4th District, which stretches from the Rhode Island border to the western suburbs of Boston.

Here’s what you need you know about the field if you’re just tuning in:

Candidates listed in alphabetical order.

Jake Auchincloss poses for a portrait.

Jake Auchincloss

What he’s done: A Newton native and city councilor since 2015 focusing on police reform and public transportation, Auchincloss previously served five years in the Marines, including stints in Afghanistan and Panama. The 32-year-old also worked at a cybersecurity startup and as a senior manager at Liberty Mutual’s innovation lab.


What he wants to do: If elected, Auchincloss’s campaign says he would prioritize federal aid for local schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and push for a green economic recovery, with a focus on creating a robust life sciences manufacturing sector in Massachusetts. He also wants to build on the Affordable Care Act to establish a public health insurance option and increase funding for medical research.

Becky Grossman.

Becky Grossman

What she’s done: A Newton city councilor since 2017, Grossman also worked as a prosecutor for Middlesex County and as an associate attorney at the law firm of Goodwin Procter. The 40-year-old New Jersey native was the director of operations for her father-in-law, former Democratic National Committee chairman Steve Grossman, when he was Massachusetts state treasurer.


What she wants to do: Grossman’s priorities include new gun safety measures, including universal background checks and a ban on — and mandated buyback of — assault weapons. According to her campaign, she would also push to lower the price of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, capping out-of-pocket costs, and enabling the importation of certain medicines from countries like Canada. Grossman also supports sweeping campaign finance reform aimed at reducing the influence of money in politics.

Alan Khazei.

Alan Khazei

What he’s done: A longtime national service advocate, Khazei co-founded City Year and went on to help establish Americorps within years of graduating from Harvard Law School in 1987. The 59-year-old Brookline resident — born in Pennsylvania and raised in New Hampshire — has also worked with several presidential administrations and ran for Senate unsuccessfully in 2010 and 2012.


What he wants to do: As part of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Khazei has called for emergency wage support to allow small businesses to keep paying employees and a federal service program to provide people jobs in the response to the pandemic. Khazei has also proposed a program to create accounts for every single American child that would give them at least $50,000 if they complete a year of national service by the age of 28. According to his campaign, the 59-year-old would also push a Green New Deal-style plan to address climate change and a district-wide hearing on gun safety.


Ihssane Leckey poses for a portrait.

Ihssane Leckey

What she’s done: The 35-year-old Brookline resident moved to the United States from Morocco at the age of 20, working below-minimum wage jobs to put herself through college. After graduating from Boston University, Leckey went on to do public policy work for a Philadelphia food bank before joining the Federal Reserve as a banking regulator, where she launched “federal inter-agency task forces to protect jobs and consumers from national and global threats to our economy,” according to her campaign website.

What she wants to do: Leckey has centered her campaign, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, around national progressive agenda items like Medicare-for-All, a Green New Deal, and bolstered family care, such as guaranteeing up to 36 weeks of paid parental leave and providing universal pre-school. According to her campaign, her other top priorities are racial justice issues — from national marijuana legalization to ending cash bail — and Wall Street regulation.


Natalia Linos.

Natalia Linos

What she’s done: Linos is a social epidemiologist currently serving as executive director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. A former United Nations staffer and science adviser to the New York City health commissioner, the 38-year-old Brookline resident also has three degrees from Harvard and serves on the Poor People’s Campaign COVID-19 Health Justice Advisory Committee.

What she wants to do: According to her campaign, Linos would prioritize “healthy communities” through legislation to pass Medicare-for-All, address the opioid crisis, and pass more restrictive gun laws, like universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. As part of her comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan, Linos is also calling for significant investments in public health infrastructure and social services, including wage support and expanded medical leave. Additionally, Linos says she would fight for economic supports to ensure an equitable and sustainable recovery that uses the Green New Deal as a “legislative North Star.”

Jesse Mermell poses for a portrait.

Jesse Mermell

What she’s done: Elected as the youngest-ever member of the Brookline Select Board in 2007, the now-40-year-old Pennsylvania native has also served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, vice president for external affairs at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, state director for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the executive director of FairTest. In 2013, Mermell joined former Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration as communications director. In 2015, she became president of the Alliance for Business Leadership.

What she wants to do: Mermell’s campaign says she would prioritize COVID-19 recovery legislation, including paid family leave and $2,000 monthly payments to support those more vulnerable to the crisis, along with increased investments in protective gear, testing, and contact tracing. Mermell has also been a vocal proponent of Medicare-f0r-All and legislation to guarantee women’s reproductive rights.

Ben Sigel poses for a portrait.

Ben Sigel

What he’s done: Raised in Braintree, the 44-year-old worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee before earning a law degree from American University. A Brookline resident since 2003, Sigel has worked as an attorney for the Boston-based law firm Mintz Levin for the last eight years — most recently as director of client and community relations. He is also the president of the Hispanic National Bar Association in New England

What he want to do: If elected, Sigel’s campaign says he would focus on an equitable COVID-19 recovery plan centered on containing the disease, extending current safety net measures, and implementing new supports like guaranteed paid sick leave and universal preschool. During the race, Sigel has also highlighted his anti-racism plan and an education plan focused on combatting bigotry and making secondary schooling more accessible.

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