Quentin Palfrey spoke with Greylock Together and laid out his positions and his optimism on Democratics taking the state's two top spots back.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Democrat Quentin Palfrey was drumming up support on Sunday not only for his run for lieutenant governor but for enthusiasm for an election he believes can take back the state's top spots.
"I would like to build a grassroots campaign from the Berkshires to the Cape doing the kinds of things that we know how to do," progressive Democrat said. "We know how to run successful campaigns. We know how to take back the corner office ... it's neighbor to neighbor, it's knocking on doors, it's building a campaign all across the state."
The former Obama administration official has been in Western Massachusetts fairly frequently since launching his campaign last September, including appearing with other candidates at the Pittsfield Democratic caucus just over a week ago.
On Sunday, he spoke at Greylock Together's regular meeting, held in the gallery room at the Eclipse Mill. Some three dozen people attended the meeting of the local political group and Palfrey spoke and took questions for over an hour.
"The lieutenant governor is traditionally the bridge to the cities and towns all across the state," he said. "I'd like to be an ally and advocate for towns and cities."
Palfrey said being the bridge between the governor and the state's 351 municipalities can help guide policy on issues such as housing and education, bringing local interests to the forefront.
But he also sees his background working as senior advisor in the White House — largely on jobs, technology, competitiveness and innovation — as a plus for a governor navigating federal systems. He also was chief of the Healthcare Division in the state attorney general's office.
Thirdly, Palfrey said he would take advantage of the lieutenant governor's role on the Governor's Council, a body that advises in a number of legal areas including court appointments, pardon and treasury warrants, to talk about criminal justice reform.
It's the changes he's seen at the federal level with the election of Donald Trump that really has him fired up.
"The Republican Party has been hijacked and the federal government is being dismantled brick by brick," Palfrey said. "The consumer protections and the social services that we've come to expect from the federal government are being dismantled.
"What am I going to be able to tell my kids and my grandkids what I did when our values were under attack," he added. "I want to be able to tell them that I stood up and I fought back."
Palfrey was asked about his stance on issues such as gun control, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions, education and poverty.
He thinks the Trump administration is wrong in seeing weakness in diversity. Rather that's always been a strength, he said. "We need to be more welcoming and understand the multicultural community."
Raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement disincentivizes undocumented residents from working with local police to make neighborhoods safer, Palfrey said.
He also believes that the National Rifle Association has a disproportionate political influence. Massachusetts has a "much better legislative landscape" because of gun control measures already in effect and lower levels of gun violence because of it, Palfrey said, but there are commonsense measure that can still be taken, such as if someone is seen as an extreme risk, his or her firearms should be removed temporarily.
The national Centers for Disease Control is now prohibited by Congress from researching gun control as a matter of public policy, he told the group.
"We need collaborative efforts amoung states to fund gun research," he said. "I'd like to see Massachusetts be a leader in what works in gun control so we can act on the basis of the best ideas and the best studies as opposed to be ostriches to the challenges."
Palfrey was executive director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab North America at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, he said, "we worked on trying to bring the concepts of science into government."
There's no silver bullet for poverty and economic development, but he said, "you can build a body of evidence that allows you to know this is a good way to use your money, this is a bad way to use your money, this is an effective intervention."
Policy should be guided by data, he said, whether it's gun violence or climate change. Poverty is a complicated issue that will require addressing factors such as housing, education, health care, substance abuse and criminal justice.
"I think our criminal justice system perpetuates cycles of violence and inequality," he said. "I think in many ways our system criminalizes poverty."
But solutions can't be used with a cookie-cutter approach. Regions may face similar challenges on the surface but their needs and resources may be very different, he said. Rather, it's about adapting the best practices.
"Insist that your elected leaders understand the issues of Western Mass and the Berkshire and treat different things in different ways," Palfrey said.
The candidate said he is for automatic voter registration that should be able to occur at any intersection with government, as well as same-day registration and early voting. He supports Chapter 70 education reform as a way to provide equity education and reduce disparities between school systems. And he supports a $15 minimum wage.
He believes a good down payment in addressing education, transportation infrastructure, substance abuse and mental health is through the so-called "millionaire's tax" that is on the November ballot. The tax would be applied to any income over $1 million, a mirror image, he said, of the new federal tax reform that largely benefits the wealthy.
But to push through these initiatives, Palfrey said, Democrats need to take back the governor and lieutenant governor spots.
People like Gov. Charlie Baker because he's a nice guy, he said, admitting that he does as well. But he said, "ask what he has led on ... what are his policy priorities, are they what you care about?"
Palfrey will face off in the Democrati primary against Jimmy Tingle, a political comedian and social activist. He said he's ready to work with any of the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates who survive the primary: former Newton Mayor Setti Warren, global sustainability advocate Bob Massie and former health system CEO and Health Connector chairman Jay Gonzalez.
"We have three really good gubernatorial candidates ... the three people who are runing for governor are really well-qualified candidates," he said, adding their differences are mostly background, style and focus. "Voters have a good choice."
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