Tristan Smith: “Meeting People Where They Are” As He Runs for State Rep
Editor’s Note: Each of the candidates for State Representative of the 8th Essex District sat down with Marblehead Beacon to discuss their lives, professions, and path to the primary election on September 6th. As part of a series, we are introducing readers to the field of six Democrats. This week’s coverage will offer some personal and professional background gleaned from each candidate’s interview, and next week the candidates’ key issues will be presented. Upcoming coverage beyond next week will include the candidates’ written answers to in-depth questions, as well as summaries of forums attended by the group.
Marblehead Beacon sat down with Tristan Smith, 26, candidate for State Representative for the 8th Essex District, at his campaign headquarters on Humphrey Street in Swampscott. Born and raised in Swampscott with three siblings, Smith currently resides in the town. He graduated from Salem State University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, and he completed a law degree at Suffolk University Law School this past May. He has postponed taking the bar exam until this winter as he is currently campaigning full time. Smith, a proud lifelong Democrat, says that, should he prevail in the race, he will not work outside his role as legislator.
Smith’s favorite movie, Goodwill Hunting, makes him proud to be from Boston. He watched it as a child and again in college and says it makes him appreciate the city. Asked about the last book he read, Smith notes that it was a law school land-use text book. The last leisure book he finished, though, was John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Smith has long been committed to educational endeavors, having most recently taught a constitutional law class to high school juniors and seniors while he was attending law school. A source of pride for him is his work as a substitute teacher in the Swampscott Public Schools as well as the five years he has coached boys and girls in cross-country and track-and-field at St. Mary’s School in Lynn. He believes in the concept of “meeting people where they are,” something he learned through his coaching and teaching experiences. While at St. Mary’s, Smith says, he increased the track program from forty to seventy student athletes and worked with parents, staff, and students, encouraging them to participate, which in turn attracted more participation.
As a law student, Smith selected classes with a focus on advocacy, legislation, and government while also serving as Chief of Staff to the Student Bar Association. Though he admits that his experience is “narrow,” Smith believes his work as a coach and his experience doing some teaching and attending law school helped prepare him to be a state representative.
As the fundraising frontrunner in the field of six, Smith was asked about the role his family has played in securing donors. Smith’s father, Jim Smith, a longtime lobbyist, was a former four-term Democratic State Representative from Lynn and a candidate for U.S. Congress, and his cousin, Steve Walsh, represented Lynn and Nahant as a state representative from 2005 to 2014. Smith’s donor list includes many out-of-district individuals, including lobbyists. When asked to explain his fundraising success, Smith credited his hard work and that of his team. They have put the “pedal to the metal,” he says, knocking on doors in the district every day and getting his message out. He also credited local media and his extensive lawn sign coverage.
Though this race is Smith’s first for public office, “I believe in and for the people I care about,” says Smith. When asked about his father’s influence on his campaign, he said that his extended family have all been part of his decision to run. He was raised in a civic-focused family, he says, noting that his mother brought him to a Swampscott Democratic Town Committee (“SDTC”) meeting when he was sixteen. With the SDTC he participated in food drives and learned first-hand about civic and political discourse. He also served as a delegate to the Massachusetts State Democratic Convention in 2016, 2019, and this year.
This week Marblehead Select Board member, Jackie Belf-Becker, endorsed Smith. When asked about Belf-Becker’s rationale for endorsing him in spite of his short workforce history and recent entrance into the world of politics, Smith explained that when he decided to run, he reached out to several leaders in the district and talked about his goals and the needs of the communities. He met with Belf-Becker on two separate occasions and “worked hard for her trust and endorsement.... We have had several discussions about the important issues facing our communities. I am honored that she chose to endorse my candidacy for State Representative. She defines what it is to be a public servant through her devotion, tenacity, and grace across her various positions in Marblehead.”
Editor’s Note: The author of this story, Jenn Schaeffner, is on the steering committee of the group PowerUP!, on which another candidate for the 8th Essex District–Terri Tauro–serves. Prior to launching Marblehead Beacon, Schaeffner contributed to Tauro's campaign. Additionally, Marblehead Beacon co-founder Lena Robinson and her family have been close to one of Thompson's opponents, Jenny Armini, and her family for more than 25 years. Robinson’s husband, Dwight Robson, has donated to Armini's campaign.