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Auchincloss Rejects Labels Ahead of Uncompetitive Re-election Bid

Freshman Congressman Jake Auchincloss comes off as a centrist to some of his constituents in the City of Newton and Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District.

But two years after thwarting competitive progressive challengers for the House of Representatives seat, the 34-year-old representative boasts one of the strictest party-line voting records in congress and said he rejects labels like “moderate.”

“I have a deep set of principles,” Auchincloss told The Heights. “I’m committed to representing the values of the Massachusetts 4th. And I’m also simultaneously sort of deeply impatient with a fixation on ideology over solutions.”

That pragmatic view of decision making may have paid off for Auchincloss. 

Two years after narrowly defeating challengers in a primary election for the seat vacated by Joe Kennedy III, Auchincloss ran uncontested in last month’s primaries and now only faces a write-in Republican candidate. 

The uncompetitive race is at least in part a result of Auchincloss’s voting record in Congress.  David Hopkins, an associate professor of political science at Boston College, said the Congressman has given his progressive constituents nothing to complain about.

ProPublica’s Represent database reports that only about 38 members of the House voted along party lines more than Auchincloss. He only voted against the Democratic Party 0.8 percent of the time, according to the database.

Jesse Mermell, Auchincloss’s 2020 progressive opponent, did not respond to a request for an interview made through Twitter.

Celia Shatiro, a constituent who voted against Auchincloss in the 2020 primary, said she now relates to him.

“I’m just worried about the world and the universe,” she said. “He seems to be, too.”

Auchincloss has voted with Democrats on key bills such as the Inflation Reduction Act, the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022, and the Respect for Marriage Act, the latter of which is a proposal he co-sponsered to require the federal government to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages as valid under law.

“On abortion, on guns, on climate change, on protecting our democracy, I have been a fierce, fierce, progressive advocate,” he said. 

While Auchincloss votes overwhelmingly along party lines, some constituents support Auchincloss for his apparent centrism. That’s the case for Jean-Francois Ducrest, a Chestnut Hill resident. Ducrest cannot vote for Auchincloss as he is not a US citizen, but he still supports him. 

“I’ve paid more taxes than most people in this country, and I support him,” said Ducrest, who has previously donated to Auchincloss. “In fact, if I was 30 years younger, I’d love to be him.”

Auchincloss said he’s willing to disagree with Democrats. He said he believes a politician’s stance on issues should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

But even though he is willing to break party lines in the spirit of pragmatism, Auchincloss is not a traditional moderate, according to Hopkins. 

“[Auchincloss is] a moderate by the standards of left-wing Massachusetts political activists,” he said. “He’s not exactly the Joe Manchin of the House of Representatives.”

Digital news source Axios Boston wrote that Auchincloss is a “Democrat touting an explicitly centrist message of cooperation with Republicans.” But when looking at national trends, Hopkins argued that Auchincloss is not a centrist. 

“He’s not really out of step with the National Democratic Party,” Hopkins said. “He’s not giving progressives reason to continue to be really upset with him. Now that he’s in Congress, he’s not voting against this sort of standard Democratic agenda.”

The congressman has displayed a willingness to defend progressive legislation in front of conservative audiences. In December 2021, he defended President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Bill after Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support the infrastructure legislation. 

“I go on Fox News, and I go on The Washington Times, or I go on The Wall Street Journal, and I make these cases for strong progressive values and priorities,” Auchincloss said. 

Ducrest said he also likes that Auchincloss is willing to communicate with opponents across the aisle. 

“We need more people who can speak to the Republicans who are not whackjobs,” he said. “I know that [there are] not a ton of them, but still, and we need people who can do deals as opposed to [thinking] about ideology.”

Auchincloss called his first two years on Capitol Hill “a period of fast decision-making and high stakes.”

His previous careers prepared him well for the national role, he said.

“What I learned in the Marine Corps is that in those conditions, you don’t rise to the occasion—you fall to your level of training,” Auchincloss said. “And I think much of my career to date has been training for an intense period of press decision making in high stakes.”

Auchincloss said his pragmatic view of problem solving started with his parents. 

His father, Hugh Auchincloss, is the principal deputy director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Laurie Glimcher, his mother, is the president and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

“I grew up in a family of scientists—both my mom and dad—and they taught me the value of open mind and hard data as they were working to cure cancer and diabetes,”  Auchincloss said.

After serving in the Marines—where he was on active duty from 2010–15—Auchincloss worked in the business sector and was elected as a city councilor in the City of Newton for three two-year terms prior to his election to Congress.

Hopkins said experience in local government is beneficial for a member of Congress.

“Sometimes it looks easier from the outside than it actually is once you’re in it, because there is so much scrutiny, and you’re constantly in the public eye, and there are cameras recording everything you say, and one little comment that you make one time can wind up defining your reputation,” Hopkins said.

Auchincloss said his upbringing and career prior to 2020 help him make solution-based decisions at the congressional level.

“What threads together those … experiences really is [they’re] all non-ideological in their nature,” he said. “Science, military, business, local government—they’re all about solutions and are all domains where fixation on the ology over solutions will get you into trouble really fast.”

Ducrest initially supported the congressman for not letting political ideology affect his decision making. He met Auchincloss at a private event before the COVID-19 pandemic and before his first congressional election. 

“He was young, but he had a lot of strong and good ideas, a tradition of service, and he was more like a traditional Democrat—a can-do Democrat as opposed to an ideologue,” Ducrest said.

Two years later, Ducrest still sees Auchincloss as a politician who looks for functional solutions to pressing issues, he said.

“He’s an honest guy,” Ducrest said. “He doesn’t care about money. And he cares about doing what works as opposed to what feels good, which is very different from the average politician in Massachusetts.”

(Graphic by Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor)

Though he started in local government, Auchincloss is “bigger than Newton,” Ducrest said.

In Congress, Auchincloss represents the city’s people well, Ducrest said. But he expects an even bigger political future out of the Newton North High School grad. 

“In 10 years from now, he’ll be a huge name,” Ducrest said.

According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit that compiles campaign financing data, the congressman has almost $2.5 million on hand to spend on political races. That is more than every other U.S. Representative from Massachusetts except First Congressional District representative Richard Neal, who has served in Congress for more than three decades. 

When politicians sit on large sums of campaign financing, Hopkins said it often discourages potential opponents from running against them. They could also use that funding for campaigns for higher-up offices in the future, according to Hopkins. 

“Both [senators from Massachusetts] are over the age of 65—they’re not going to be there forever,” Hopkins said. “Maybe one of them gets a cabinet position at some point or something like that opens up a seat, maybe you want to think about that. Having $2 million already sitting there to start your campaign with is an advantage.”

But for now, Auchincloss is planning for his next term in Congress. 

Representing 750,000 people in his district, Auchincloss said he wants to lower healthcare costs, protect Medicare, and advance democratic priorities.

“They can count on continuing to see me locking arms and on the front lines of democratic fights on abortion, on guns, on climate change, and on protecting our democracy,” Auchincloss said.

September 25, 2022