North Carolina sends out nearly 600,000 ballots; Mark Meredith reports.

Jake Auchincloss, a USMC veteran with a Republican history, eked out a victory in the Democratic primary for a Massachusetts House seat after an heavily-contested three way race that started with nine different candidates vying to replace the congressional seat of Joe Kennedy III, according to a projection Friday by the Associated Press.

The election was held Tuesday and the results showed Auchincloss, 32, winning with just 22.3% of the vote and a margin of a little over 2,000. In the end too many candidates each with major backing by a different faction of the progressive caucus canceled each other out and allowed Auchincloss, who once worked as an operative for former Republican operative for Gov. Charlie Baker.

“I’m honored that the people of #MA04 have chosen me as the Democratic nominee for Congress. We won 25 of the 34 cities and towns across the district, a testament to the strong, full-district campaign we built,” tweeted Auchincloss, who dominated the more rural and working class townships that border Rhode Island to find the narrow path to victory.

KENNEDY CONCEDES TO MARKEY IN HEATED MASSACHUSETTS SENATE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

Jesse Mermell, the former communications director to Gov. Deval Patrick and local city councilor who was endorsed by Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley followed with 21% of the vote.

Becky Grossman, a member of Newton city council endorsed by Rep. Ro Khanna, a senior adviser to Sanders 2020 campaign, received 18% of the vote.

This Sept. 1, 2020 photo shows Jake Auchincloss, who is running in the Massachusetts 4th District race, campaigns Foxboro, Mass., near the John J. Ahern Middle School on Primary Day. (Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via AP)<br>

Natalia Linos, an epidemiologist who ran a campaign focused on building healthy communities and advocating for social justice  through reparation received 11% of the total vote.

Ihsane Leckey, a former regulator at The Federal Reserve endorsed by ‘Squad’ member Rep. Ilhan Omar came in 5th with 11% of the vote.

The combined vote totals of the other progressive candidates would have easily defeated Auchincloss in a district which has most recently been represented by liberal stalwarts Joe Kennedy III and before that Barney Frank.

Auchincloss will be a boon to moderates in the party. His views are more conservative than that of the incumbent or most candidates who ran for the seat. He was a registered Republican who campaigned for current Gov. Charlie Baker only 6 years ago. He opposes Medicare for All and was criticized for a litany of positions on social justice issues including a 2016 council vote against cutting the Newton police budget and writing a letter in 2016 to the Newton school arguing that students should not be punished for displaying a Confederate flag.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Watertown, Mass., after conceding defeat to incumbent U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Despite his more moderate views compared to some progressives, Auchincloss is still in favor of abortion rights, a vocal opponent of the NRA and backs the liberal Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate justice plan.

The nine candidates who declared their intention to run (two of whom dropped out and endorsed Mermell) spent nearly $7 million on this race, according to analysis of FEC records by ProPublica.

The small vote share for either candidate will likely not impact any chance that Democrats won hold on to the seat. The Massachusetts 4th district hasn’t elected a Republican since 1947. Kennedy didn’t run for re-election so he could seek the Democratic nomination for the Senate, which he lost Tuesday.

RICHARD NEAL, INFLUENTIAL DEM REP, SURVIVES PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY CHALLENGE

The Auchincloss victory will be a blow to progressives on what had been a hot streak in major House races. Alex Morse, a Justice Democrat backed progressive, was unable to unseat the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committe, Rep. Richard Neal, in Massachusetts 1st district primary on Tuesday.

Democrats are expected to hold on to the Kennedy seat: the Massachusetts 4th district hasn’t elected a Republican since 1947.

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