Former Democratic presidential candidate and incumbent Representative Seth Moulton won Massachusetts’ Democratic primary in the US House Sixth District.
Moulton had faced off with a pair of challengers from Topsfield: Angus McQuilken, a longtime gun control advocate and economic development official, and Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, a mental health advocate and trustee at Salem State University.
The contest marked Moulton’s first primary fight since charging into Congress six years ago, when he knocked off nine-term incumbent John Tierney. However, the most recent race didn’t fit the typical narrative of a multi-term incumbent trying to fend off a youthful or decidedly more liberal challenger.
Unlike the sharp generational divides that shaped the Fourth and Eighth congressional contests in the state, Moulton, at 41, was the youngest candidate on the primary ballot. And while McQuilken, 50, and Belsito, 46, have sought to pitch themselves as progressive options, on major policy issues — such as health care — there’s little daylight. (Belsito backed Republican Richard Tisei in his 2014 loss to Moulton, at the time likening it to a crushing Red Sox championship defeat.)
Both Belsito and McQuilken have taken shots at Moulton. Belsito criticized the array of political action committees Moulton, a Marine combat veteran, formed to back fellow military veterans, 21 of which won House seats in 2018.
McQuilken had tried to frame Moulton as hawkish, and went after specific legislation, including Moulton’s cosponsorship of a controversial House resolution condemning China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Moulton ultimately withdrew his support of it. He also rapped Moulton, a Salem resident, for running for president and challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Moulton, meanwhile, had touted helping steer more than $1 billion in investments to the city of Lynn. His office’s work for constituents has been recognized in Congress, he had pointed out. His work in helping flip the House two years ago is good not just for Democrats, but the district, too, he had argued.
While Belsito and McQuilken have brought what activists consider sharp-elbowed, serious campaigns, they were also hobbled by the pandemic in terms of commanding attention or raising substantial funds.
The district stretches from Bedford to the New Hampshire state line and includes North Shore communities like Beverly, Marblehead, and Gloucester.
Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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