All nine incumbent Massachusetts representatives plan to seek reelection to Congress in 2022.
But none is guaranteed an easy race: Some could face challengers — including first-term Representative Jake Auchincloss — and all will be seeking to represent newly drawn districts based on 2020 Census data.
The members of the state’s House delegation, all Democrats, told the Globe through spokespeople in recent days that they plan to run in the midterms. If they do, it would mark the first time in six years that incumbents will appear on the ballot in every Massachusetts congressional race.
Fifteen months ahead of the 2022 midterms, few primary challengers have emerged. But some progressive organizers are expecting that to change — namely, in the Fourth Congressional District, where Auchincloss won a crowded 2020 Democratic primary against eight other candidates with just 22.4 percent of the vote.
The second-place finisher in that Democratic race, Jesse Mermell, is now seriously considering another run for the Fourth District seat, according to a person with direct knowledge of her thinking. Mermell declined comment.
During last year’s primary, Mermell ran to the left of Auchincloss, a one-time Republican, and declared he was “someone who has been indefensibly out of step with this district time after time.”
Auchincloss, for his part, was lifted by appeals to moderate, blue-collar communities in the district, which snakes from Brookline and Newton to Taunton and Fall River, and his pitch as an “Obama-Baker” voter willing to partner with Massachusetts’ popular Republican governor.
Since taking office, he has worked to shore up his left flank, signing onto legislation to increase the minimum wage, taking aim at some of his most conservative House Republican colleagues, and publicly supporting efforts to abolish the filibuster in the Senate. Auchincloss, who serves as vice chair of the House Financial Services Committee and has made the rounds on national television in recent months, voted with his party 100 percent of the time, an Axios analysis found in May.
In a statement, a spokesman said he is “focused on representing the values of the Fourth District and delivering results by lowering costs for working families.”
“He’ll be on the ballot next cycle, running on his accomplishments and holding Republicans accountable for the Big Lie and vaccine disinformation,” the spokesman, Matt Corridoni, said.
Still, some activists predict a more liberal challenger will emerge.
“It’s my expectation that there will be a progressive challenger for Jake,” said Raul Fernandez, the vice chair of the Brookline Select Board, who endorsed Mermell in 2020 and indicated he would back a progressive challenger against Auchincloss next year.
“I think Jake’s had an opportunity to show who he is since taking office, and I think he’s shown that he is who folks thought he was: a moderate guy,” Fernandez said. “I know that progressives in the district are looking for a stronger voice.”
The other members of the delegation who plan to run for reelection — Democrats Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Lori Trahan, Katherine Clark, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Pressley, Stephen Lynch, and Bill Keating — all have served at least one term before the current one. (Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey are not up for reelection in 2022.)
Republican candidates have filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run against Neal, McGovern, Auchincloss, Pressley, and Keating — even as all districts, as currently drawn, are considered safely Democratic.
As a first-term incumbent, Auchincloss would be the most vulnerable to a primary challenge, said John Cluverius, a pollster and political scientist at UMass Lowell. But, he said, progressives would likely need to put up one candidate to go head-to-head against Auchincloss in order to be viable and not split the vote.
Were he to face a primary opponent, Auchincloss would be running with the wind of incumbency advantage at his back, along with a significant cash advantage from the jump. The former US Marine and Newton city councilor had more than $1.4 million in the bank as of the end of June.
Becky W. Grossman, a Newton city councilor who finished third in the 2020 congressional primary, said Auchincloss will be “hard to beat,” and ruled out running again — although she expects him to be challenged by someone.
“He’s going to have a track record of his time in office to speak to,” she said, and noted that Auchincloss has “been present throughout the district.”
“A lot of the various criticisms and pushback were litigated the first time around,” she said. “So it’s a different set of circumstances.”
Despite the Fourth District speculation, only one primary challenger appears to have officially jumped into the fray in a congressional contest — Michael Ruiz, who is seeking to oust Lynch in the Eighth District.
In an interview, Ruiz, a newcomer to electoral politics who works as an engineer, acknowledged the long odds he faces against Lynch, but says that Eighth District residents — who live in Boston, Brockton, Quincy, and 21 towns in Southeastern Massachusetts — deserve a better advocate in Washington. Lynch, seen as a more conservative Democrat than his Massachusetts colleagues, easily fended off a challenge from a progressive challenger two years ago — and two years before that, too.
Some progressives in Western Massachusetts have also expressed hope that a candidate will come forward to challenge Neal, who has represented Springfield and the surrounding area in the House for more than 30 years, rising to become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. But Neal, 72, who has handily fended off primary challenges from the left in each of his last two election cycles, had $2.6 million in the bank as of the end of June, filings show — more than any other Massachusetts representative.
At least one X-factor remains going into 2022: congressional redistricting. State lawmakers are currently engaged in the lengthy process of redrawing the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts based on the latest census data.
A new political map could change the dynamics of a district to make it more or less friendly to potential primary — or general election — challengers depending on what parts grow or shrink. The process, in the past, has produced late surprises: It was redistricting that prompted longtime Representative Barney Frank to declare he would retire the last time the state’s congressional lines were redrawn a decade ago, when Massachusetts lost a House seat.
This year, districts in the western part of the state — including the First, represented by Neal, and the Second, held by McGovern — are expected to shift in shape in order to add more residents, while some districts in the greater Boston area, such as Pressley’s, are likely to shed voters due to faster population growth in the eastern part of the state. The US Constitution requires that all congressional districts in a state contain the same number of residents.
Frank, who represented the Fourth District for 32 years and now lives in Maine, said it’s too early to tell whether the changes might produce another surprise.
“If you were not otherwise deciding to quit, and redistricting was going to be the factor, why decide it now?” He said. “You wait until you see what the districts are.”
Previous Globe coverage was used in this report.