With Democrats at her side, Lori Trahan framed herself Tuesday as a fighter for paid family leave, an antidote to President Trump, and an example of the rising tide of female candidates lapping at Capitol Hill’s steps.
A few miles down Interstate 495, Rick Green sat with rows of auto parts standing at attention behind him, promising action on meat-and-potato issues such as fixing crumbling roads and restoring jobs while attempting to eschew conservative party labels.
Voters in the Third Congressional District have had no shortage of choices this election cycle. Be it through policy or pitch, the candidates vying for office in the seven-week sprint toward Nov. 6 promise to provide stark differences.
Trahan, the 44-year-old former congressional chief of staff, emerged from a 10-person field — and five-day recount — to face Green, 47, the lone Republican running to replace retiring US Representative Niki Tsongas.
They each come in well-financed, having so far poured a combined $470,000 of their own cash into their campaigns. And they come with support of their party’s most popular figures — US Senator Elizabeth Warren is expected to rally Friday with Trahan, while Governor Charlie Baker has made a full-throated fund-raising pitch for Green.
But quickly, the two staked out vastly different ground on the first official day of the general election, which also features independent candidate Mike Mullen of Maynard.
“Now more than ever we need more voices in Washington who are going to stand up to Donald Trump, hold this administration accountable and restore the values of our country,” Trahan, the onetime chief of staff to former US Representative Martin T. Meehan said in Lowell, eight of her nine vanquished Democratic competitors standing to her side at a “unity” rally.
(The ninth, state Representative Juana B. Matias, was unable to attend due to the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions, officials said.)
Trahan sought to tie Green directly to Trump, who polls show is deeply unpopular among Bay State voters.
Green, she said, “looks forward to being another voice, another vote for this president and his divisive agenda.
“Rick Green supports Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy. He wants more corporate money flowing to our elections corrupting our democracy,” she said, a reference to his court challenge of the ban on corporate political donations. “The state hasn’t sent a Republican member to Congress in almost 25 years, and given everything that’s at stake now is not the time to break that streak.”
Green, the Massachusetts chairman of John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, said he voted for Trump in 2016, but he’s cautiously sought to create distance. He hasn’t committed to backing Trump in 2020, and the Pepperell resident pushed back on Trahan’s characterization of him as a reliable voice for the White House.
“Absolutely not. The only accurate description of me is a reliable voice for the people of the Third District,” he said Tuesday at the Littleton warehouse of his company, 1A Auto, an auto parts company. “I’m running to support them.”
Green has cut a conservative profile in years past, founding the right-leaning advocacy group Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance in 2012 and unsuccessfully running for chairman of the state Republican Party a year later.
And in promising to better fund infrastructure and fight the opioid epidemic, he touts fiscal conservative ideals. “The only dark money in government is the taxes you pay to the government,” he said Tuesday. “They go into a black hole never to be seen again.”
But is he running as a conservative?
“I don’t find labels helpful for this campaign,” said Green, who says he can appeal to voters in the 37-community district. “I don’t think the district has changed so much as the politics for the folks on the other side. I believe their politics have gotten bluer, if you will. But for me, it’s how do you show folks you can have an impact on their daily lives?”
He’s getting help in delivering that message from Baker, the state’s popular Republican governor who in a fund-raising missive said Green has his “full support.”
“Though Rick has not held public office before he has been a tireless advocate for fiscal responsibility,” Baker wrote. “Rick will represent the 3rd District and Massachusetts with integrity and always put people ahead of politics.”
In Trahan, he is facing another first-time candidate but also a wave of sorts. She’s part of an unprecedented number of women on the ballot this November, provoked to seek public office by Trump and his baggage of allegations of sexual misconduct.
The share of women candidates running for US House is at a historic high of 43 percent, according to Dave Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College. The previous record: 29 percent in 2016.
“I believe that better decisions are made when more women are at the table,” said Trahan, who promoted protections for women in the workplace and affordable child care, among other issues. “I believe that [when] we create the conditions for women to succeed the world is simply a better place for everyone.”
So, in a region where a Republican hasn’t held a congressional seat since 1975, how does Green counter? “He’s just got to work harder,” Green said. “It’s that simple.”
Matt Stout can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattPStout. Victoria McGrane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.