TOPSFIELD — Gun violence prevention advocate Angus McQuilken is running for Congress in the 6th District.
McQuilken said Thursday he is challenging Salem Congressman Seth Moulton in the 2020 Democratic primary.
"I’m running for Congress because we need a leader who can get results,” McQuilken said in a statement. "I’ve spent the past nearly 30 years in a series of leadership positions, building coalitions and getting legislation passed that is making a difference in people’s lives. I know how to bring about change in Washington, and have clear priorities for the 6th Congressional District that I will fight for as a member of Congress."
Among those priorities: gun violence prevention, the climate crisis, transportation, health care access, strengthening the local economy and making higher education more affordable.
McQuilken said in an interview he spent the summer touring the district and listening to residents' concerns.
"And what I learned from that experience is that people are very frustrated in this district with the lack of progress on issues that are important to them," he said.
It's more than just political gridlock on Capitol Hill, he said.
"Breaking through gridlock requires leadership, and leadership is what we don't have in our member of Congress," McQuilken said. "Seth Moulton has been tilting at windmills for the past five years, first in his challenge to Nancy Pelosi and then in his run for the White House. What he hasn't been doing is focusing on the needs of the people of the 6th Congressional District. We need a member of Congress who is going to focus on the job they have, not on the job they want next."
McQuilken previously worked for more than a decade for Cheryl Jacques, the first openly LGBTQ state senator in Massachusetts. He served as deputy communications director for the Democratic National Convention Committee, was vice president for public affairs for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, and was vice president for communications and marketing for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. He now works in business development for a large Boston law firm.
After the December 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, he co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.
McQuilken joins the race shortly after Salem City Councilor Lisa Peterson ended her campaign. The announced field also includes women's mental health advocate Jamie Zahlaway Belsito of Topsfield. In March, Rockport carpenter Christopher Fisher said he wanted to run as an independent.
Moulton's spokesman Matt Corridoni said the campaign had no comment, other than Moulton was a product of a primary, having challenged and won in the Democratic primary against former Congressman John Tierney in 2014.
Back in May, McQuilken, 50, floated the idea of a run as Moulton made a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Moulton, who grew up in Marblehead, dropped out of the presidential race in August, and is seeking a fourth term.
When asked about the bills Moulton has filed, including one to increase funding for right whale research, the passage of the Faster Care for Veterans Act meant to reduce wait times for veterans seeking VA appointments, and efforts to combat combined sewer overflow that pollutes rivers used for drinking water, McQuilken said: "Filing bills is easy. Passing legislation is a lot harder, and it takes leadership and a willingness to build coalitions of support."
"We are five years into Seth Moulton's term," he added, "and on the big issues that impact this district, the gun violence problem is worse, climate change is accelerating, our transportation system is crumbling, our health care is at risk and higher education is more expensive than it's ever been. So, where is the progress? Where are the results?"
McQuilken lives in Topsfield with his wife Diann. Together they have four children, ages 8 to 16.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.