Report on our Peace Voter Campaign

Nika Elugardo and Jo Comerford Nika Elugardo (left) and Jo Comerford (right)

This article appeared in Massachusetts Peace Action’s Fall 2018 newsletter

Can a politician be progressive without being pro-peace?  As the nationwide resistance to Trumpism challenges Republican control of Congress Nov. 6, Peace Action is insisting that peace is a critical part of the progressive agenda. Our national organization is supporting some 30 candidates for Congress this year in states from Arizona to Wisconsin, aiming to elect a new wave of lawmakers who will move Washington in a more peaceful and just direction. 

In Massachusetts, we support Reps. Jim McGovern and Katherine Clark, who are expected to cruise to re-election Nov. 6.  In the primary we also supported Tahirah Amatul-Wadud in western Mass. and Bill Cimbrelo in southeastern Mass., who made an excellent showing against conservative Democratic incumbents though they did not prevail.

In the 10-candidate primary to replace retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas in the Lowell area, we met with and briefed seven of the contenders on peace issues. We ultimately endorsed state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, a nuclear disarmament and peace advocate who works with our sister disarmament organization, WAND/ WiLL, and introduced a state bill this year to curb the president’s power to launch a nuclear first strike. Lori Trahan emerged to win that primary.

In the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area, Rep. Mike Capuano was ousted by challenger Ayanna Pressley. We endorsed Capuano due to his long record of voting against Middle East wars and military spending increases, and his longtime support of labor, women, and immigrants’ rights. We were unable to secure a meeting with Pressley and we viewed some of her responses to our peace questionnaire as vague. (We appreciated that she met with Dorchester People for Peace.) While progressive constituencies including people of color, women, and young voters supported Pressley—and some of our own members were in her camp or were torn by the choice—our endorsement of Capuano arose from our conviction that progressive candidates must forthrightly address foreign policy issues and be prepared to take tough stands for peace. We look forward to working with both Pressley and Trahan on peace issues as they enter Congress.

State Legislature

While most peace issues are decided in Congress, we turned increased attention to state offices this year as a way of building grassroots power. In the Nov. 6 election we support State Senators Paul Feeney in the Foxborough area, Julian Cyr on the Cape and Islands, Jamie Eldridge in the Acton area, and candidate Sue Chalifoux-Zephyr in Fitchburg-Leominster. We also support Leominster’s Natalie Higgins for State Rep. 

We scored two big wins in the primary. Peace activist Jo Comerford won election to the State Senate in the Northampton-Greenfield area, and Nika Elugardo unseated a powerful but cautious incumbent for State Rep in Jamaica Plain.

Reps. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker won their primaries with our support and are unopposed in the general, and we continue to support Sen. Pat Jehlen and Reps. Mike Connolly, Denise Provost, Jack Patrick Lewis, Jay Livingstone, and Jon Hecht, all of whom were unopposed for re-election. Even when pro-peace legislators are unopposed, it is important that we show our support and build up their financial reserves so that they can prevail over any future pro-corporate Democrats. 

Statewide Offices

We were proud to support Bob Massie for Governor, who pledged to help divest state pension funds from military contractors and refuse campaign contributions from them, pull police out of training in Israel, and publish information on how the Federal government uses tax dollars.

We also supported Jimmy Tingle for Lieutenant Governor, and Donna Patalano for Middlesex D.A.  While we didn’t endorse in the race for Secretary of State, we questioned the decision of some progressive groups to support challenger Josh Zakim, pointing out that he is heavily involved with the pro-Israel lobby.

Yes on Questions 1, 2, and 3!

We support all three referendum questions on the Nov. 6 ballot.  Question 1 would ensure quality health care by requiring  sufficient nurse staffing levels  in hospitals; Question 2 would prepare a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics; and Question 3 would confirm the trans rights bill enacted by the Legislature in 2016.

Massachusetts Peace Action endorsed more candidates than ever before in 2018, and successfully introduced candidate briefings to our election tool kit.  We won some and lost some, but we were able to move the debate on some widely discussed races.   Peace is a deep and necessary part of the progressive agenda. Mass. Peace Action will continue to educate and push candidates and elected officials to work for peace and justice in the face of an Administration that seems bent on shredding our democracy and moving the country toward war.

  —Cole Harrison is the executive director of  MAPA.