QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 4 — What makes you different?

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.

Previous questions:

Q1. Tell us about yourself.

Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?

Q3. What are your three top priorities for the 8th Essex District?

Today’s question:

During the Marblehead League of Women Voters’ 8th Essex District forum, candidates agreed nearly on all the issues. How would you distinguish yourself from the others? 

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

First, I stand out as the hardest working candidate in this race. I have knocked on over 5,000 doors across the district, seeking to hear the needs and priorities of the constituents across our communities. I have also made conscious efforts to meet with various community leaders to gain their perspective on what they need from their next state representative.

This campaign isn’t about me; it’s about the people of Marblehead, Swampscott, and Lynn, and making sure they have a seat at the table. This is the type of legislator I will be.

As a lifelong resident of the district with family ties to all three communities, I know these people and I know these problems. I am the best person to articulate and advocate for us on Beacon Hill.

Furthermore, I represent a different perspective that is much needed on Beacon Hill. As the youngest candidate in this race, I have grown up dealing with today’s very pertinent issues, including education inequity, climate change, housing shortages, and student debt. In the legislature today, out of 40 senators and 160 representatives, only three are under the age of 30. I seek to represent a community and point of view that our State House is sorely lacking.

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

I met a woman knocking on doors who responded to my background with, “Well, you are shovel ready!” That’s exactly right. I have the public policy and legislative experience and deep community ties to get to work quickly and effectively in the State House. 

As an aide on both Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill, I drafted legislation and created the coalitions to pass it. As a speechwriter and the communications chief at MassINC, the state’s nonpartisan think tank, I advanced complex ideas with effective messaging and strategies for placing them on the state’s public policy agenda. And as a board member of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and graduate school intern at Planned Parenthood, I provided leadership and technical assistance in the fight for women’s reproductive rights.

The job of representative requires those skills, but equally important, it requires deep community ties and the ability to develop relationships with key stakeholders, including fellow legislators. I’m very proud of co-founding ElectBlue, the local grassroots political organization that raised thousands of dollars for U.S. House and Senate Democrats running in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Through ElectBlue, Maureen Kay and I identified a need within our community and provided the resources for people to take political action. Many of those same people support my campaign today.  

I am the only candidate in this race with these powerful and highly relevant experiences, which are matched by my passion for public service and my long-time dedication to Marblehead. 

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

I have a lifetime of deep experience leading large-scale change unlike anyone else in the field. In my roles at the Massachusetts Medicaid program, Neighborhood Health Plan and Cambridge Health Alliance, I drove improvements in care for over 1.5 million Massachusetts residents and helped save hundreds of millions of dollars. We did this by investing in primary care, mental health and geriatrics – keeping people healthier and out of the emergency room, hospital and nursing home when there were better alternatives. 

In order to achieve this, I had to negotiate with the federal government, the Legislature, and many other sophisticated stakeholder groups to find practical solutions. I have managed multi-billion-dollar budgets multiple times. $20 billion of the state budget is spent on healthcare, and it is growing faster than anything else. We need to get healthcare costs under control if we want to make investments in other priorities. I am only candidate in the field with healthcare experience and only candidate with a detailed plan on how to make progress.

I have also been a leader in not accepting lobbyist contributions. Special interests are why we don’t make more commonsense progress. Our state representative needs to be free of any special interests. Most of the other candidates have followed my lead, but one candidate has not.

I have experience driving legislative progress both in D.C. when I worked on the Clinton healthcare plan and on Beacon Hill in my various roles inside and outside of state government.

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

Most of us have life experiences that shape what kind of representative we will be. If you look at what we have accomplished and what our reasons were for doing what we did, it can speak volumes. Our democracy gives us the ability to elect the right person at the right time. We are not bound by birthright, education or financial standing and are free to choose the best candidate.

I have a long history of practical experience advocating for working families’ rights, healthcare and pay equity. I was raised in public housing, went to public schools and worked three jobs as a single
parent to give my children opportunities. I am a coalition builder, a skilled negotiator and have fought hard for myself and my children as well as creating opportunities for the people I represent. I am already a representative and hold three elected positions. This is the result of grit and determination. As a lifelong resident of this district with deep connections to the people that live here, I am here to help and I will get the job done for everyone.

Diann Slavit-Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

We have a lot in common, but there are important differences to consider.  For example, I’m a lifelong Democrat – in fact my first job out of college was on the staff of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. I’ve worked on countless Democratic campaigns, and I’ve been both an alternate and a volunteer at the Democratic National Convention. I also served as an intern on Capitol Hill, on both the House and Senate side, working for Democrats. I am not a recent convert to the Democratic Party, so voters can count on me to stand up for Democratic values; I always have, and I’ve never wavered.

Another difference is in experience. As an immigration attorney, I work cases. I have extensive experience helping clients navigate a complicated government bureaucracy. When I leave my office, I take a giant, heavy bag of case files with me, because that work continues around the clock. That’s the kind of advocate that residents of this district need – someone who will help them navigate the bureaucracy of state government, and that will relentlessly advocate for them, whether it be problems with housing, healthcare, access to state services, or anything else.

When you’re the youngest of nine kids, you learn to be scrappy. I’ll take that skill set to the State House, provide first-rate constituent services to the residents of this district, and hire a first-rate staff to do it with me.

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

State representative is a district-level office, and the role of the representative is to advocate for the needs of the municipalities and communities within that district. As an elected member of the Swampscott Select Board and Town Meeting and an appointed member of the Swampscott Finance Committee, I have spent nearly a decade focusing on the needs of a municipality. I have dealt with financing those needs, understanding the competition between those needs, and making difficult choices between competing needs. This is experience that you cannot gain in the legislature, yet is a fundamental base of knowledge to be an effective state representative.

Aside from providing me with the necessary skills to effectively fulfill the duties of the office, I know that I truly want to be the district’s next representative because I have been in leadership positions in local government for many years now. Being a state representative is not the office in which one should first discover whether or not being in elected office is a good fit.

I am an experienced and trusted advocate for my community in the role of a public servant and for my clients in my role as a child and family welfare attorney. As a litigator, negotiator, and trained mediator, I weigh when to fight and when to settle on fair terms for every case. This directly translates to the type of skill set needed to be an effective advocate on Beacon Hill. 

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