The primary race for a House seat in the 4th Congressional District spilled over into Wednesday as Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss and progressive former business group leader Jesse Mermell headed toward a photo finish after emerging Tuesday from a crowded Democratic field.
The race in the district represented by U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III remained too close to call Tuesday night, long after Kennedy had conceded to U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and the rest of the state's Congressional delegation had claimed victories.
Auchincloss, a Marine veteran and moderate Democrat, led his closest competitor Jesse Mermell, a progressive former advisor to Gov. Deval Patrick, by a little over 1,500 votes with over 96 percent of the vote tallied.
Auchincloss expressed confidence in his campaign's position, but both he and Mermell called for the process to be allowed to play out before anyone claimed victory.
"While the results of our primary are being calculated, I encourage all voters and candidates to allow the process to comprehensively and lawfully unfold. While we always expected a competitive race, we are confident that our full-district campaign will be victorious when the results are announced," Auchincloss said in a statement shortly after 1 a.m.
Just earlier than that, Mermell said the race was "too close to call."
"The most important thing to do now is to count all the votes," Mermell said. "We have preliminary figures from city and town clerks but we don't know for sure whether those are all the votes. We have been told that clerks in several communities are still counting and reviewing mail-in votes which continued to arrive in drop boxes up until the polls closed tonight."
"It's too soon for anyone to declare victory or stop counting," she added.
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin on Wednesday afternoon asked a court to authorize local election officials to continue counting state primary ballots that were received on time and had not been tallied as of the end of last night.
“On Election Day, there are strict procedures in place to make sure that ballots are counted in public view, where anyone may observe the process," Galvin said. "It is important that we preserve that same level of transparency for ballots counted after Election Day."
Judge Janet Sanders late in the day authorized vote counting to continue Thursday in Newton, Wellesley and Franklin, where Galvin's office believes as many as 1,450 ballots may have yet to be tallied.
Those three communities, according to Galvin's office and the judge's order, must give advance notice of when the counting will resume so that observers can be present. Wellesley intends to count its remaining ballots at 9 a.m. in the Great Hall of Town Hall.
Mermell performed strong in the liberal suburbs of Boston, winning handily in her hometown of Brookline and topping the ticket in Newton where Auchincloss and fellow candidate Becky Grossman both serve as city councilors, according to campaign officials.
Auchincloss, meanwhile, appeared to be performing well in the southern end of the district.
Not unlike the 10-way race in the Third Congressional District which went to a recount and was eventually won by Congresswoman Lori Trahan, the Fourth District race could be entering similar territory.
A candidate may request a district-wide recount if the margin of victory is less than half of 1 percent of the total votes cast. Both campaigns have three days after the primary before recount petitions are due, and those papers must be signed by one-quarter of the number of voters required to sign a nomination paper to qualify a candidate for the ballot. In a normal year, that would be 5,000 signatures, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the signature requirements were reduced by the Supreme Judicial Court to 1,000 to qualify for the ballot.
This article was originally published on September 02, 2020.