HAVERHILL — Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he knew within five minutes of meeting his former chief of staff Dan Koh, now a congressional candidate, that Koh was the best man to join his team at City Hall and help him push through initiatives to lift the lives of Boston residents.
Koh rattled off his business accomplishments during that first meeting about five years ago, Walsh said, but then pivoted to his real passion: how he could give back to the community.
“This is a young man that could have gone on — and maybe his family wanted him to go on — to run a company somewhere,” Walsh recalled on Saturday, standing before a crowd of about 60 supporters. “But he wanted to go into public service.”
Walsh’s glowing remarks kicked off the opening of Koh’s new office in downtown Haverhill, and an afternoon of hand shaking and door knocking in the surrounding neighborhood by Walsh, Koh, and a group of volunteers drawn largely from local unions.
Koh, a descendant of Korean and Lebanese immigrants, is one of 13 contenders for the Democratic nomination for the Third Congressional District, anchored in Lowell, Lawrence, and Andover. The field includes businesswoman Lori Trahan, former US Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, businessman Beej Das, state Senator Barbara A. L’Italien, and state Representative Juana Matias.
Wayne Murphy, government affairs director for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35, said union officials had interviewed all the candidates for the seat and settled on Koh because he understood that the most important economic and social policy is good jobs.
“It’s not an issue of a union job or a non-union job,” said Murphy. “It’s a matter of lifting all workers. Unions have a history of lifting and creating the middle class. Unions are keenly interested in seeing that all workers have all of the protections that the law provides them, whether it be a minimum wage, or safe working conditions, or training, or a pension, or significant health coverage for our families. And that’s why we’re here.”
Koh spoke of his priorities, including fighting to make sure that everyone has access to good health care and a well-paying job; ending the opioid crisis; protecting workers’ rights; enacting common sense gun reform; and investing in public education.
He gave his cellphone number to the crowd, saying he believed government was about “helping as many people as possible,” and insisting that every single one of his constituents’ problems were his problems.
And Koh lamented the state of national politics.
“We believe in an America that’s better than the one we’re seeing on CNN or MSNBC. We believe in an America where we’re all inclusive, that your neighbor and you are friends, and you will get the back of your neighbor just like you would get the back of your family member,” he said. “That’s what this campaign is about.”Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.