The Marblehead News posed a series of common questions to the six Democratic candidates for state representative from the 8th Essex District. There is no declared Republican candidate, meaning the winner of the primary Tuesday, Sept. 6 is likely to head to Beacon Hill to serve Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn. Over the next two weeks, the Marblehead News will post the candidates’ responses to our questions, side by side, alternating the order as we go.
Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that people grow more conservative with age. Yet, I have done the exact opposite.
In fact, raising a family has sharpened my view that government can and should play a role in breaking down barriers, facilitating opportunity, and protecting the most vulnerable in our society. It has made me consider the generational compact, and how threats like climate change and the national scandal of income inequality will permanently and negatively impact the quality of life for our children and theirs.
I entered parenthood with a host of advantages, thanks to my family’s education, income, and race. As the challenges added up — routine challenges, mostly — I was struck by how American society makes it incredibly difficult for people to raise healthy families — from the cost of health care and child care to the paucity of paid family leave and equal pay. Educational opportunities are delivered by zip code and bank accounts. The American Dream feels more like a lottery than it did when I was a kid.
The Republican Party refuses to even acknowledge these realities, never mind propose solutions. It has been swallowed whole by extremists and conspiracy theorists. Full disclosure, I had thrown up my hands and left the party by the time my first child was born in 2003. There was no place for someone with my values. The wisdom of my decision has only been confirmed in the years since, especially as my children have grown and my community activism along with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare so many systemic inequities in our system. The sudden shutdown, taking me away from my studies in law school and the kids I coach at St. Mary’s, led to a hyperfocus on what other communities dealt with during our response to the pandemic. Small businesses I had frequented for my entire life shuttered. Teaching school virtually and seeing what my students were dealing with, all in different home situations, was eye-opening. The fact that certain historically disenfranchised racial and socioeconomic groups had different health outcomes is a stark reminder of the systemic inequities that we deal with in the Commonwealth and the country.
COVID-19 convinced me that this system is broken beyond repair. We need to move past the idea of reforming this system and not be afraid to accept big, bold ideas going forward. Some of our system can be reformed, but much of it needs to be fundamentally readdressed. COVID-19 demonstrated many of those inequities, from housing to healthcare to education to jobs and more. We must not be afraid of progress, even if it means tackling these issues in big ways.
I have always spoken truth to power, but it was my involvement with the labor movement that opened my eyes to the inequities in our district and the country. My background gives me a unique perspective into what is really needed. Through my work as union president, I was able to make a profound change in people’s lives. I will continue that work at the State House for the entire district.
The polarization in the country, and politics especially, made me realize that it is time for a strong coalition builder, skilled negotiator and a true voice of the people. I am already a representative with this skill set. It is what I do every day.
This district deserves a representative that can negotiate and fight when necessary for what the people need. I will put this democracy back into our hands in Lynn, Marblehead and Swampscott.
Growing up in a working-class, union family and going through tough times as a child has shaped my values profoundly.
My father worked at GM on the assembly line, and there were long layoffs in late ’70s in Buffalo where I grew up. We had to rely on the kindness of neighbors and other supports. The electricity got shut off at times, and we were the recipient of various forms of help. I have been working since I was 12 to help my family out and to put myself through college and grad school. This work ethic is fundamental to who I am.
I have worked hard in my career to help others, with the vast majority of my work focused on helping seniors, disabled and poor families with Medicaid or Medicare health insurance.
I have voted for Democrats my entire life, starting with Mike Dukakis for president in 1988. I believe government can be a force for good, and Democratic priorities and policies best help address the challenges that many people face.
This has been confirmed by the conversations I have had with people across this district over the last six months where I have come to the doors of over 8,000 people to hear your concerns. I will bring these values and this work ethic to my role as your state representative.
9/11 and the days that followed were critical to my views about the potential of our country to achieve unity, and regarding the importance of civil dialogue in solving problems. I only wish that that spirit of unity had lasted. I do believe it’s possible to get there – and I say that because of my experience as a cast member for the PBS documentary “Divided We Fall – Unity Without Tragedy.”
I was chosen as a representative of the Democratic perspective to participate in an experiment, where the producers brought six Democrats and six Trump supporters, shortly after the 2016 election, to a farm in western Massachusetts for a weekend of dialogue, with cameras rolling.
I thought I was going there to win debates, armed with facts, but as it turns out the weekend was focused on trainings in active listening and empathy, and focused on finding common ground.
What I discovered through my participation in this documentary (and I would encourage people to watch it) is that we all truly want many of the same things (e.g., great schools, a strong economy); we just have different views on how to get there.
I look forward to bringing this training and these skills to Beacon Hill, where civil dialogue is sorely needed in order to get important things accomplished.
I do not believe there to be a particular life event that shaped my political views, but rather the work I do everyday as a child and family welfare attorney has been most influential.
In my role working with children and parents separated by DCF, as well as with struggling juveniles in the Children Requiring Assistance program, I am exposed to a variety of individuals whose circumstances are systemic and structural symptoms.
I have the opportunity to understand the history behind individuals and their decisions, spanning from mental health crises to poverty to learning from my own family regarding disabilities and drug addiction.
I have taken the time to understand the people and humanize the problems that many people in our district and across the Commonwealth face, which informs the way I view policy and political leadership.