Who am I?
I am a fighting progressive. I’ve spent years leading the fight for equality, economic justice, and social justice in Massachusetts and am a co-founder of the Progressive Caucus in the state legislature.
I am currently serving in my fifth term as a State Representative for the 34th Middlesex District in Massachusetts, which encompasses communities in Medford and Somerville. My first election in 2004 took place at the height of the debates over marriage equality in Massachusetts, shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage. I ran against, and defeated an anti-equality, conservative Democratic incumbent, who had represented the district for 14 years and who was a part of House leadership. After defeating him by just 93 votes in the primary, he attempted to keep his seat by waging a write-in campaign for general election. As an openly-gay candidate, I was put through an extremely homophobic, high profile campaign, which (I am proud to say) the voters soundly rejected, and I was elected that November by a two-to-one margin.
Over the past eight years, I have taken an active role as an organizer in the Massachusetts Legislature and co-founder of our Progressive Caucus. I was actively involved organizing to defeat a constitutional amendment which would have banned marriage equality, which we finally defeated in June 2007. I also took a leadership role in organizing support for an increase in the minimum wage, closing corporate tax loopholes, and increasing transparency on corporate tax breaks. As a legislator, I take my role as an organizer very seriously. It is not enough to show up and cast my vote, hoping things turn out well. Fighting for progressive values means developing a legislative strategy, working with colleagues and organizations, counting votes, developing messaging, and looking for opportunities to pull legislative efforts to the left through advocacy and amendments.
The first bill I filed and passed as a new legislator was the Buffer Zone Law. This law protects patients and staff while entering reproductive healthcare facilities in Massachusetts. It creates a 35-foot fixed zone around the entrances to clinics, allowing law enforcement to secure the area enabling women to access their right to seek care without being obstructed by protestors. The most recent bill I authored and passed was the Transgender Equal Rights Law. Signed by Governor Patrick in November 2011, it adds “gender identity” to our existing civil rights and hate crimes laws.
As Governor Patrick said, we need Democrats with backbone. From my very first campaign, through my legislative accomplishments, to this very run for Congress, I have maintained the view that the toughest challenges are reasons to get organized early, put together smart campaigns to win, and bring people together to work towards our shared goals and values. The elected officials I respect the most are those who can articulate a clear progressive vision for our country, and aren’t afraid to fight for that vision. That is also the kind of elected official I have tried to be for my constituents.
Why am I running?
When I first shared the news with my partner that I wanted to run for Congress, his first question was, “Why would you want to be in Washington with the way it is right now?” My answer to him was simple. I am running for Congress because I care about the future of our country and the health of our planet. I am concerned that the decisions being made in Washington aren’t just going to affect future generations, but in our own lifetimes we will pay the price for inaction. A new generation will either inherit a mess being left to us, or we will be a part of making progress. I am running because I choose to be a part of making the American Dream possible for another generation. I am running for office because I want to fight for progressive values in Washington as I have done on Beacon Hill in Boston.
I remember growing up and learning about the importance of saving the planet for future generations. Thirty years later, as a member of the state legislature when we debated the Global Warming Solutions Act, I kept hearing the same phrase “future generations” being used. Thirty years of inaction had gone by, and we now face consequences in our own lifetimes. We need to bring urgency to our political process to confront these real and imminent challenges.
This relates not only to the environment, but in so many issues we face as a society. In many of the debates in Washington, including Social Security, Citizens United, immigration, women’s health, and LGBT equality, what’s really at stake is how this country will look and treat its citizens in the coming decades. These debates are about whether we can continue to make progress as a country, whether we continue to invest in our future, whether our democracy can continue to tackle the tough challenges we face, or whether we retreat from our generational responsibilities.
I am running because I have hope that we can continue to tackle tough challenges. I have hope that Washington can hear the needs of people across the country and respond with meaningful, thoughtful, and forward-thinking action. I have hope because I want to live in a neighborhood that is safe, in a nation that continues to lead the world in freedom and democracy and peace, and on a planet that is still habitable. Inaction is simply not an option – the stakes are simply too high and the urgency and immediacy of the work that needs to be done has never been more real.
My first goal is to be a strong advocate for issues of economic justice and opportunity. The gap between the rich and those living in poverty has never been greater and we are seeing the middle class start to disappear. We need a Congress that promotes a strong middle class, not the interests of Wall Street, and one that is also looking out for those living in poverty. We need policies that provide opportunities for individuals and families to climb the economic ladder. Americans facing poverty seem to have been all but left out of the conversation and I pledge to be an advocate for them as well. As a Congressman, I will lead the fight to protect against benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and will immediately sign on in my official capacity to the Grayson-Takano letter to protect these programs for future generations. I will also co-sponsor bills to increase and index the minimum wage to the rate of inflation and close corporate tax loopholes.
My second goal is to work towards overturning the Citizens United decision and mitigating its damaging effects on our democracy. This decision has hijacked our government. When only the wealthy and corporate interests have a voice, it takes government out of the hands of the people. In Massachusetts, I co-sponsored and voted for a resolution calling on Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. I also co-sponsored a bill to require disclosure of all political spending by corporations. In Congress, I will co-sponsor the DISCLOSE Act and work with advocates and allies towards its passage. There are serious issues I want to fight for in Washington including meaningful Wall Street regulations, climate change legislation, and increasing the minimum wage, but the Citizens United decision gives too much power to corporate interests who are seeking to block these important policies.
My DFA Values
Community – I am a Democrat because I believe in fighting for the common good. We saw a great example just this past month, when Republicans tried to undermine Wall Street regulations at the same time as Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren was proposing to provide students the same low interest rates given to banks. I see the role of government as protecting a level playing field, where individuals who work hard and play by the rules can still get ahead, and where economic security is more a factor of effort, entrepreneurship, and hard work than luck, cheating, or opportunism. As a state legislator, I have fought for social and economic justice, from increasing the minimum wage, to closing corporate tax loopholes, to increasing transparency in government spending on business tax breaks and protecting homeowners who were the victims of predatory loans. As a member of Congress, I will fight for retirement security and single-payer health care, and will oppose policies that extend the growing gap in income inequality.
Security – My generation has been told to fight in two wars, while also being told “good luck” in figuring out how to pay off the debt caused by those wars. We are only just beginning to understand the implications of the failed military and energy policies of the Bush era. There is a clear and important intersection between a smart energy policy, the health of our natural environment, and national security. We need bold action to transition to a clean economy where growth is tied to investments in renewable energy technology. I was proud to support passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act, which is helping push Massachusetts towards a day when we emit fewer greenhouse gases, where we rely less on military-dependent foreign sources of fuel, and where we create good paying green jobs. I am committed to supporting peaceful resolutions to conflict, where we don’t pursue military engagement except as a last resort, and always with a clear mission and strategy for success and closure of the conflict.
Liberty –I believe in an inclusive vision of our country, where all people have an opportunity to succeed. Through hard work, a level playing field, and equal opportunity, no person is denied their liberty because of who they are, where they come from, how they pray, or who they love or choose to marry. The role of government is to protect personal liberties, which means we don’t spy on our citizens, we don’t deny rights to entire classes of people, and we continue to expand the definition of who the “we” is in “We the People.” I have shown my commitment to liberty through my work on LGBT rights including the preservation of marriage equality and passage of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill; through women’s equality by authoring and passing the Buffer Zone Bill to protect women’s access to reproductive health clinics like Planned Parenthood; and through sponsoring bills dealing with protecting personal privacy from corporate and government overreach.
My Campaign is People Powered!
Campaigns are opportunities to empower people to shape the government we want to have. I believe Citizens United must be overturned through a constitutional amendment, and co-sponsored a resolution passed in the Massachusetts legislature last year calling for such an amendment. In the first quarter of fundraising we already had the largest number of donors, 50 percent greater than either of our competitors, and are proud of our strong showing of broad support. We will build off of our network for fundraising as well as for putting together a robust field campaign. Getting grassroots groups and communities involved is a key part of our plan for success in this campaign. As I have done in my past state legislative campaigns, this campaign will rely on a wide and diverse network of volunteers to have direct conversations person to person, neighbor to neighbor. We will have a large college and high school intern program, and already have a strong intern team in place. I have focused on training a new generation of progressive leaders, having done trainings through PFAW’s Front Line Leader’s Academy and the MassAlliance and Emerge campaign trainings, and believe in using campaigns to help train future candidates and activists.