Forum brings state candidates to JP

March 28, 2014
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Following its successful governor candidate forums last fall, the JP Progressives recently brought to JP several Democratic state office-seekers for lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer.

At a March 19 forum at Doyle’s Cafe, attorney general (AG) candidate and former Jamaica Plain resident Maura Healey spoke about her experience fighting for equality in the AG office and her hope to continue that work, while treasurer candidate Tom Conroy discussed his accomplishments as state representative and his goal once elected to bring job opportunities to everyone.

Also scheduled to speak were lieutenant governor candidates Steve Kerrigan, Mike Lake and Leland Cheung, a Cambridge city councilor.

About 20 people attended the event.

Healey, who lived in the neighborhood while she attended Northeastern University School of Law, said that “JP values are my values” and mentioned that local state Rep. Liz Malia and JP City Councilor Matt O’Malley have endorsed her.

Healey has worked in various capacities for the AG’s Office, including in the civil rights division. She talked about leading the fight for marriage equality and spearheading the effort to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Healey led a 2009 lawsuit that led a federal court to rule part of DOMA is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a similar ruling in an unrelated case last year.

“For me, it was a matter of fairness. We took that on and won,” said Healey. She said that’s an example of what the AG’s Office can do.

Healey also discussed fighting against predatory mortgage lending and using an AG program to help keep people in their homes through negotiating loan modifications.

“That’s good for people and that’s good for neighborhoods,” she said.

Bruce Blaisdell, a JP resident, asked Healey about people who hung empty chairs in trees after the 2012 Republican National Convention, where actor Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair symbolizing President Barack Obama. Blaisdell said that he felt hanging an empty chair represented lynching a black man and asked Healey how she would respond if a Massachusetts resident did that.

Healey said she would go to local officials to get the facts, but “whether or not we could make a case, I don’t know.” She said she respects the First Amendment, but would also advocate against any offensive act.

Blaisdell told the Gazette afterwards that “I like a lot of what she is saying, but I was not entirely satisfied by her answer” to the question.

Conroy, who is a four-term state representative from Wayland, talked about his experience at the State House, which includes working on legislation that helped lower the state’s borrowing costs, which he said saved taxpayers money, and being an author of the present minimum wage bill working through the state Legislature.

He talked about how the economy has changed over the past 30 to 40 years and that middle-class jobs are few, leading families to struggle to pay for college, health care and mortgages. Conroy said he wants to use the authority of his office to make sure there are job opportunities for everyone.

Reuben Kantor, co-chair of the JP Progressives, said the group is holding the present series of forums because it “seems like there are all new candidates for the races.” He said it is an opportunity to meet the candidates for residents, some of who are delegates to the state Democratic Convention, which will be held in June.

“They will be running important offices for the Commonwealth,” Kantor said of the potential elected officials.

He said that the lieutenant governor, AG and treasurer positions are sometimes “stepping stones for higher offices” and people should learn about them “not only for the jobs they do, but for the jobs they may do.”

More candidates—including lieutenant governor candidates James Arena-DeRosa and Jonathan Edwards, AG candidate Warren Tolman, and treasurer candidates state Sen. Barry Finegold and Deb Goldberg—were set to speak at a second JP Progressives forum March 26, after the Gazette deadline.