Day Eight of Q & A With the Candidates for State Rep
Next Tuesday, six Democrats will face off in the primary for the 8th Essex District State Representative seat. There are no Republicans or third-party candidates running. Barring a strong write-in candidate in November, the winner of the primary among the Democrats will be the new state representative for our district.
Marblehead Beacon sent each of the six candidates a questionnaire. On Monday, we began publishing their responses and published several lighter questions and answers later in the week. Today we offer another substantive question we posed to the candidates along with each of their answers. We will continue this pattern through the end of the week.
Editor’s Note: After several emails and two phone calls, the only response we received from Tristan Smith's campaign was from a spokesperson who said the candidate might be too busy to complete the questionnaire. He was the only one of the six candidates who did not submit answers.
For Republicans and some Independents, the Democratic party’s platform frequently does not align with their belief about what is best for the Commonwealth. Democrats have had a supermajority in the State House for many years. Is there anything you would do to represent constituents who do not share your goals? Does having a single political party with unchecked power concern you, particularly if a Democrat is elected governor?
The question assumes that the Democratic Party is monolithic. Unlike its Republican counterpart, which is in thrall of Trump and his ilk, the Democrats have vibrant factions representing a range of views. This is especially the case in Massachusetts, where more centrist and even conservative Democrats have their voices heard.
Legislation allowing terminally ill people to request and receive medication to end their lives is one example. Aid-in-dying bills have long been opposed by some religious organizations, anti-abortion groups, and others in Massachusetts. “We have a very divided House of Representatives,” said Speaker Ron Mariano—despite widespread public support.
I pride myself on my ability to listen to and consider all sides—and I offer that to anyone who may have differing views from my own. It starts with respect. I also see those conversations as learning experiences. Working with legislation and public policy, grassroots organizing, even speechwriting have honed my skills in bridge building and compromise. They don’t require sacrificing values; rather, bridge building and compromise require common ground, respecting the needs and views of others, and focusing on the end result.
I believe it’s up to the voters to decide who represents them in state government, and I’m excited about the prospect of working with Maura Healey as our next Governor (she’s been a great leader on gun violence – in fact we played basketball together in a charity tournament promoting violence prevention). That said, outcomes are best when all perspectives are heard, and that principle was an important part of my training 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 would also represent every resident of my district, regardless of party, as their advocate in navigating the bureaucracy of state government. That's what I do all day on behalf of my immigration clients, I help them navigate a complex government bureaucracy. Constituent services is the most important part of this job, and I will work tirelessly to provide first-rate constituent services for everyone who needs help, and hire a top-notch staff to do it with me
Tristan Smith: Did not respond to questionnaire. See editor’s note above.
While I am a democrat, I will be first and foremost your Representative. I have gone toe to toe with elected officials and the town Administration defending the rights of people that I did not necessarily agree with. I represent a diverse group of people with different socioeconomic backgrounds and political views. I am focused on doing what is right for the entire District and State and will keep up with checks and balances. I pride myself in being a skilled negotiator and reasonable person and I will listen to all points of views.
I would take seriously the fact that I would be representing everyone in this district - from all political parties. I enjoy hearing different points of view. That makes for better policy. I will have monthly office hours to hear from anyone in the district. Given that we have an open primary including Democratic and Unenrolled voters, I have heard from a fairly wide spectrum of viewpoints. It does not concern me that we will hopefully have a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature. We need to make more progress on the issues confronting the people of Massachusetts. And even when the Executive and Legislative leadership are from the same party there are institutional forces that lead to healthy debate on priorities.
Representatives should be equally receptive to and available for all of their constituents, regardless of their political party. Most of the issues that a State Representative deals with on the district level are foundational and transcend party lines. I would be concerned about unchecked power in the State Legislature, regardless of political affiliation.