AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 11
Question 11: What experiences qualify you to represent the citizens living in your district?
I was born and raised in Brookline and met my wife at Tufts University nearby. My mom, Cathleen Cavell, has been involved in Brookline politics her whole adult life and founded Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts. In my career, I have worked with the best young leaders of our party- Governor Deval Patrick, Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House, and most recently, Attorney General Maura Healey. I saw firsthand how these leaders built diverse coalitions and teams around them. When I’m in office, I’m going to implement a “traveling office” to bring this Congressional seat to people everywhere in the District. Currently, there are only two district offices, one in Newton and one in Attleboro. I think we can do better.
I’m currently an At-Large member of the Newton City Council and Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee, representing residents of one of the district’s largest cities, with a particular focus on improving school building facilities, addressing the city’s infrastructure and transportation challenges, and supporting local efforts to combat the climate change crisis. But the job I cherish most is being mom to my two kids –– Madeleine, who just turned 9, and Jack, who just turned 6. I’m running for Congress with the fierce urgency of a mom who is fed up by what’s going on in Washington and determined to make change. Out of 435 members of Congress, there are only 25 moms of school-aged children. I believe that if elect more moms of young kids, we can start to finally move the conversation forward on urgent issues like gun control, climate change, and affordable healthcare and child care. We won’t be able to tackle our most urgent issues until we start sending new and different types of leaders to Washington who aren’t afraid to stand up to powerful special interests. This is a perspective that I believe is sorely missing and needed in Washington, and one that I’m proud to be offering.
Before joining the Council, I served as an Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County and an Associate at the law firm of Goodwin Procter. I also served as Director of Operations on my father-in-law’s (Steve Grossman) successful statewide campaign for Treasurer in Massachusetts. I received my undergraduate degree in economics at Cornell University and earned a J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School.
I am a leader who understands there are two types of people who serve in government– those that believe in the power of big government and those who believe in the power of people. I believe in We the People, and I will defend law and order, freedom, and prosperity for all people.
As I did as an officer in the United States Air Force, I will bring the skills I developed and American values to Congress. I served as the Medical Chief Operating Officer for small clinics, large medical centers, and as the Senior Healthcare Executive of a multi-facility healthcare system in Washington DC. I served our nation for over 30 years, and as a Colonel I have proven my ability to successfully lead and deliver results. I am prepared to serve the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District in Washington, DC.
I’ve been a non-profit entrepreneur, organization builder, movement leader, bridge builder and democracy activist my entire career. I’ve been on the outside, building coalitions to get big things done in our nation including creating City Year, the model for AmeriCorps and worked with closely with Senator Kennedy, President Clinton, Senator McCain and President Obama among others to build the coalitions to help pass three major pieces of Federal legislation. Now I want to get on the inside, break open the doors of Congress and bring this new movement energy in, to break the logjam in DC.
I’m a service person at my core. Serving in Congress would be an extraordinary opportunity to make a tangible and daily difference in people’s lives. People go to their Congressperson for help with their Medicaid and Medicare benefits, veterans’ benefits, student loans and education grants, appointments to the service Academies, help with immigration, to join workers on strike on the picket lines and more. I’m excited to be able to make a difference in people’s lives from the Fourth District every single day.
As a citizen leader, I’ve built the coalitions and resultant outside pressure and support to help pass three major pieces of federal legislation and I successfully led the effort to Save AmeriCorps in 2003 when Tom Delay tried to kill it. This was at a time when Republicans led the House, Senate and White House. We won because I helped organize a coalition and grassroots movement that led to bipartisan support. That important work saved the Corporation for National and Community Service, a billion-dollar agency that went from an 80% funding cut to a 50% budget increase. And I led the coalition that defeated Mitch McConnell in the first hundred days of the Obama administration when he opposed the Serve America Act -- we got all of the Democratic Senators to vote for it and a majority of the Republican Senators, in spite of McConnell’s opposition, to vote for it as well. I know how to put people before politics, leverage movement energy and coalitions to get big things done. As a result, more than 1.1 million people have served through AmeriCorps. I’ve worked with every Governor of Massachusetts since Governor Mike Dukakis and every President since George H. W. Bush, and worked especially closely with President Clinton’s administration and President Obama’s. I’ve been appointed to two bipartisan federal commissions on service. Thanks to all this experience, I know how to get Washington to work and have demonstrated the ability to make a significant impact as an everyday citizen, even in the face of government reluctance and partisan opposition. I want to utilize that experience to secure big results on behalf of the people of the 4th district and for progressive causes I’ve been fighting for my whole life.
Driven by a deep desire to fight injustice and inequality, I have worked for fifteen years in public service at the intersection of research and policy. I began my career at the United Nations, working first in Lebanon and then in New York advising governments across the globe to move the needle on key global priorities from poverty alleviation to ending gender-based violence and safeguarding global health. Following my doctoral training in epidemiology at Harvard University, I led the UNDP’s work at the intersection of health and climate change, bringing together youth advocates and urging governments to take more ambitious action on climate change to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement and fight air pollution.
During the Ebola epidemic, I worked as Science Advisor to the New York City Health Commissioner and continued my work to advance equity at a more local scale. I helped shape strategy around several key initiatives, including ThriveNYC, the Mayor’s $800 million citywide mental health initiative to tackle issues like opioid overdose, depression, and suicide, and Cure Violence to end gun violence. I also contributed to launching new community health profiles for each of the 59 districts, showing how structural racism, poverty, environmental injustice and residential segregation was shaping the health of neighborhoods, and giving people information and data to advocate for greater investment in their communities.
In my current role as the Executive Director of the Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and serving on the Poor People’s Campaign COVID-19 Health Justice Advisory Committee, I continue to bring a vision that has been influenced by my firsthand experience “on the ground” and is supported with my public health and policy expertise.
I’ve built a 20-year career as a progressive fighter on issues that are critical to voters in the Fourth Congressional District. My professional experience working at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts during the height of the fight to include reproductive health care in the Affordable Care Act, serving on the Brookline Select Board for six years where I partnered with community activists to tackle climate change by banning plastic bags and styrofoam at the local level, running point on the Strong Women Strong Families Initiative during my time in Governor Patrick’s administration, and leading the state's progressive business community as President of the Alliance for Business Leadership, where I was one of eight voices at the table with legislative leaders negotiating what is now the strongest paid family and medical leave law in the nation, makes me uniquely qualified to go to Washington to fight for residents of the Fourth District.
I am a third generation American. I am a retired US Officer like my father, and two of my brothers served as Artillery Officers. My family history is an influencing factor regarding my loyalties. My professional career put me in direct contact/involvement with the "Military Industrial Complex". This gave me significant insight into the complexities of our nation’s economy and the far-reaching effects of large scale programs and government spending. A bit of "how the world works" if you will. Additionally, I have some understanding of the great struggle between Marxism and the world of Free Enterprise that operates within our Republic. I know what a communist sounds like, a talent which many seem to struggle with today. Perhaps of some interest to AJC, I was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom which brought me into direct contact with the "Moslem" world. My sense of the differences between "our world" and theirs may be a bit more refined than that of the other candidates.
The 4th Congressional District is a diverse district and needs representation that can relate to the diverse perspectives of the District. That is why when I announced my intention to run for this seat, the very first thing I did was embark on a listening tour of the district starting in Fall River, being the first and only candidate to visit all 34 cities and towns in the District.
I have deep connections throughout the District. I grew up in a working class, middle-class family in Braintree, which is similar to many towns in the district. My dad spent his life in public service, working for HUD overseeing and auditing the public housing authorities in Fall River and Taunton. My brother lives in Franklin, my cousins grew up in Sharon and live in Medway, and my kids went to school in Newton and now in Brookline.
I will become the first Latino ever elected to Congress from Massachusetts. I am also Jewish and have spent decades helping to strengthen the Jewish community. I have also worked in the government, non-profit and private sectors. In order for the change we need to be addressed, we need all three sectors working together. I have worked in Washington DC for the Democratic Caucus to help promote a national democratic agenda, been on the boards and committees of over a dozen non-profits in the Jewish and Latino community, including AJC for over a decade, helping to strengthen those communities and creating relationships and partnerships, and I am currently the President of the Hispanic National Bar Association for New England and have spent the past 15+ years working as an attorney at law firms, serving most recently as National Director of Client and Community Relations of a AMLaw100 firm.
As a Latino and Shomer Shabbat Jew, my personal experience growing up in a middle-class family in the suburbs of Boston and now raising 4 young children will help me better understand the perspectives of the residents in the 4th District.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.
AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.
AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.