In the Democratic primary on Sept. 1, for the 6th Congressional District, I’m voting for Angus McQuilken. He is running against the incumbent, Seth Moulton, and another challenger, Jamie Belsito.

I believe McQuilken’s background and variety of experience are broad and relevant to the most important issues our country faces. As well, he has developed a list of priorities that he would emphasize as a congressman, and they are indeed the issues we should be tackling.

McQuilken, 50, has held a wide diversity of posts. Currently a business development executive at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery in Boston, and an adjunct lecturer in public relations at Lasell University in Newton, he is also a co-founder of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and continues to be an activist in advocating for measures to advance gun control laws.

From 2008 to 2017, he was the vice president for communications and marketing at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the agency created by Gov. Deval Patrick to implement statewide measures and strategies to promote research and development in the biotech, medical and engineering life sciences fields. The center brought together business, tech firms, government and academia to create new products, treatments, start-ups and jobs.

McQuilken was the vice president for public affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts from 2005 to 2008. Before that, he was the chief of staff for state Sen. Cheryl Jacques from 1993 to 2003. He has a bachelor’s in political science from UMass Amherst.

The common thread running through both his professional employment and his many volunteer activities is a devotion to public service, the public interest, and a history of building coalitions to achieve public goods.

He has identified six priorities he would pursue as a congressman. The first, because of the pandemic, is economic recovery and the immediate need for federal assistance to small businesses, nonprofits, colleges, workers and students.

Closely related to this is the need to provide health care for all Americans. McQuilken would work to broaden health care access and ensure its affordability for all.

His third priority, addressing the climate crisis, is also an urgent one. With the United States and the world facing potential disaster in the coming decades, McQuilken recognizes that only immediate federal and international action can possibly forestall the worst ecological and climatic deterioration.

Along with actions to green the energy economy, he believes that we must transition to much more capable and widely distributed mass transit systems. He proposes a $1 trillion investment in developing new infrastructure – of many diverse sorts – to expand our transportation options and solutions. He points out that for decades we have essentially neglected public transit.

Another McQuilken priority is to further the effort to achieve more effective gun laws across the nation. Better licensing controls, universal background checks, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are all on his list of necessary reforms.

A final goal that he would pursue as a congressman is better, less-costly access to all education levels – kindergarten through college. Preschool should be available to all, and not cost-prohibitively. As part of the fight against the pandemic, federal assistance must be provided to school systems that are struggling to open safely. And higher education – especially in the state schools – must be within the financial reach of lower-income families.

McQuilken draws an important contrast between himself and Moulton. Noting that Moulton recently voted against a proposal to reduce the defense budget by 10%, McQuilken says that he would have supported the cut. He points out that defense expenditures have grown enormously and that we need those dollars for other pressing problems.

I agree with McQuilken, and it raises a concern that I hold about Moulton. I think that he is too uncritical of military spending. And I think his priorities lean too heavily toward veterans affairs and national security. Worthy issues all, but our fracturing country today requires different priorities.

Congressman Moulton served in the Marines from 2001 to 2008; he enlisted in May of 2001, as he was graduating college, and before the tragedy of 9/11 and before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He says he disagreed with the war in Iraq – in which he fought – but oddly then, I think, he volunteered for his third and fourth deployments there.

Military service can be a valuable experience in the life of a person, but different people garner different lessons from it. For many veterans, appropriately, it becomes but one element in a life of many events and passages. Often, it is not an experience that trumps all other experiences or viewpoints.

To my eyes, Moulton overemphasizes and over-references his military service. It appears never far from his thinking. Yet the changes our nation needs to make – to capitalism, energy production, automation, and to face climate change – will entail enormous financial costs and hard choices. I believe that Angus McQuilken is most attuned to those challenges.

Brian T. Watson of Swampscott is author of “Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time, and the Future We’ll Face.” Contact him at btwatson20@gmail.com.

 

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