Jesse Mermell, a former adviser to Governor Deval Patrick who is running for the Democratic nomination in the Fourth Congressional District, has snagged the endorsement of Barbara Lee, one of the country’s leading champions for women’s advancement in politics.
Lee, a prominent Boston-area activist and philanthropist, said she is backing Mermell in the crowded primary race to succeed Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III because Mermell’s experience makes her the best candidate, particularly at this perilous moment.
“Throughout her career in both the public and nonprofit sectors, Jesse has been a champion of progressive policies and issues that matter to voters," Lee said in a statement. "Jesse is a qualified leader, and she will be an important addition to our congressional delegation.”
Lee founded the eponymous Barbara Lee Family Foundation two decades ago with the mission of achieving equality and greater representation for women in politics and contemporary art. On the politics side, the nonprofit has studied every single female candidate’s campaign for governor, produced research and guides for women candidates to help their campaigns, and hired pollsters and analysts to offer real-time feedback on how women running for office are doing.
Lee also gets involved in recruiting and supporting individual progressive female candidates through her political office. In Massachusetts, she was an early supporter of Representative Ayanna Pressley of Boston and Attorney General Maura Healey, among others. Nationally, she has helped every sitting Democratic woman governor and US Senator get elected, according to her organization.
Lee’s support could give Mermell a boost in the very congested Fourth District race. At least 10 Democratic candidates say they have the signatures necessary to get on the ballot, according to Politico. The coronavirus outbreak, however, has curtailed traditional campaign activities and fund-raising for all candidates, and consumed most of the public’s attention — making it all the more difficult for individual candidates to define themselves.
The district includes Brookline, Newton, and parts of Fall River, stretching from Boston’s western suburbs to the South Coast.