Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez has represented the 15th Suffolk District for more than a decade. He is running for re-election this year and is facing Nika Elugardo in the Democratic primary. The winner of the Sept. 4 primary will effectively be the next representative as there will be no challengers in the general election in November. The Gazette recently conducted a question-and-answer session with Sanchez about the campaign and about the issues facing Jamaica Plain and the state. For more information about him, visit jeffreysanchez.org. (The session has been edited.)
Q.: Why are you running for re-election to the 15th Suffolk District seat?
A.: As a lifelong resident of our community, I’ve seen how state government and people working together can make our neighborhoods stronger. I grew up in public housing in Mission Hill where I learned about civic engagement from my mother. Now, my wife and I raise our two daughters here in Jamaica Plain. That’s why I’m committed to addressing the most important issues for our communities. I helped lead the effort to protect marriage equality and ensure universal healthcare in the legislature while working with leaders to pass transgender non-discrimination, equal pay, women’s health laws, and to raise the minimum wage.
This past session alone we’ve accomplished so much, from comprehensive criminal justice reform to ensuring copay-free birth control to all women in Massachusetts. I recently completed my first House budget as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, where we passed a budget that invests in the most vulnerable amongst us, protected healthcare for low-income families, and funded programs that make a difference in people’s lives.
We’re just getting started. I’m running for re-election to continue our progressive agenda so we can help people here in Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Brookline, and across Massachusetts.
Q.: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Jamaica Plain and how do you plan to address them if elected?
A: Our neighborhood is a microcosm of the state. On one end, there’s extreme wealth. On the other, extreme need persists. And we have everything in between. I’ve tried to bring this disparity to the forefront, because finding solutions to inequity in our own community is a shared responsibility we have as progressives. I’ve worked with the residents at Bromley-Health/Mildred Hailey development so they can organize and advocate for their residents. With the help of community organizations, we’ve come a long way coordinating services and bringing people together in that neighborhood; residents feel stronger and more hopeful that they can turn things around. I will continue working with residents to advocate for better services, and will continue to engage the entire community in this effort.
In many ways, we are victims of our own success here in JP. Whether it was leveraging millions in state funds to develop affordable housing in Jackson Square or engaging DCR to improve access to Jamaica Pond and the Emerald Necklace, we’ve worked tirelessly to improve our community. Now, residents feel the pressure in terms of housing and transportation. I’ve attended community meetings since before I was a state representative, where these issues are front and center. As state rep, I supported increased transportation funding to buy new Orange Line and Green Line cars, which should be on the tracks in 2019, and am working with the T to improve bus service across the district. I worked with residents and Mothers Out Front to pass laws that fixed gas leaks in JP. I prioritized $100 million in the recently-passed House budget to provide housing vouchers to low-income families, and $2 million to provide assistance to small businesses. And I will continue to advocate for more affordable housing, smart transportation solutions, and policies that improve small businesses in our community.
Q.: What do you view as the most pressing issues for the state and what will you do to help fix them?
A.: As a Commonwealth, we have committed ourselves to the principles that everyone should have access to healthcare, an affordable place to call home, safety from gun violence, and civil rights for all. I have prioritized these issues throughout my career, and am proud of my votes in these areas. I voted for healthcare reform, which has helped insure nearly 98 percent of the state’s population and served as a model for the Affordable Care Act. Knowing that strong, common sense gun control saves lives, I supported the state’s ban on assault weapons, led the charge to ban bump stocks, and recently passed “red flag” gun control legislation. Through our efforts, Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun violence of any state in the country. Some of my proudest votes have been around civil rights: I proudly supported equal marriage in the legislature and voted for our transgender non-discrimination laws. As a product of Mission Main public housing, I’ve fought for affordable housing policies in the Legislature and brought over $500 million in state funding to the district to help develop over 500 units of affordable housing at Roxbury Crossing, Jackson Square, Hyde Square, and Roslindale.
Q.: What makes you a better candidate to serve as the representative for the 15th Suffolk District than your opponent?
A.: I have the experience and the record to continue serving our district. I’ve supported progressive values throughout my career, and have been deeply involved in the neighborhood through good and through bad. I’m on the ground, and everything we hear and see happening in the neighborhood directly informs what we do in the State House.
The House went beyond what everyone thought we would in our criminal justice reform law, and was lauded by reform advocates. With our new law, people can now erase records for crimes that are no longer laws, like the possession of marijuana. And we lift up youth by allowing them to expunge non-violent records, empowering them to turn their lives around without being held back while applying for a job or school.
In my first budget as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, groups like the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, Environmental League of Massachusetts, the ACLU, and Pine Street Inn lauded it for various its progressive provisions and priorities. We passed a $1.8 billion housing bond bill to fund programs that have helped us develop over 500 units of affordable housing in Jackson Square, and will support the 300+ in the pipeline. I secured over $40 million in our capital bond bill to help fund the Jackson Square Recreation Center and other improvements to the neighborhood.
I’ve worked hard in the community and in the State House to get into a position of leadership where I can have a direct impact on legislation and issues that matter most to our community and Commonwealth. In my new role as chair of Ways and Means, I have the opportunity to meet with all 159 members of the House to find areas where we agree on priority legislation, and help ensure that we have enough votes to move forward on important issues.
I look forward to building on this work in the State House and in our community. Our campaign has been endorsed by 1199 SEIU, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, the Bay State Stonewall Democrats, and Local 26 Hospitality Workers Union, a testament to our progressive, inclusive experience and vision forward.
Q.: What is your favorite aspect of Jamaica Plain?
A.: It’s a warm and welcoming community. No matter your lifestyle, religion, or nationality, JP will embrace you. When you walk up and down Centre Street, you see the rhythms, smell the flavors, and feel the energy. You can smile and say hello to a random person walking down the street, and they’ll respond back in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, you name it. It’s why the youth at the Hyde Square Task Force organized for the recent designation of the Latin Quarter as an official cultural district. This is the loving community that raised me and instilled the values I continue to support every day.
Q.: Anything else you would like to add?
A.: Last session, I was proud to vote for legislation that established gender pay equity, increases in solar, wind, and hydropower clean energy, and policies to help with struggling with opioids and substance use disorder. But my proudest vote was to ensure protect transgender people from discrimination in public spaces. Unfortunately, there is a ballot question on the November ballot that seeks to repeal these protections. Our community values dignity, equality and respect for EVERYONE in Massachusetts regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. We cannot go backwards. I urge you to join me on Tuesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. in First Church of JP (6 Eliot St.), to join the fight with Freedom For All Massachusetts and protect civil rights for our transgender friends and neighbors.