Tip O’Neill’s adage that all politics are local has never seemed more quaint. Congressional races might once have hinged on who could fix the potholes. In 2018, though, all politics are national, and a growing share of Americans vote based on who will resist — or support — Donald Trump.
To judge from the Democratic primary, that shift has even reached the Third Congressional District in Massachusetts, the kind of area that once typified O’Neill’s saying. The Merrimack Valley district, anchored by Lowell, has a tradition of sending practical-minded representatives to Washington and expecting them to deliver for cities that include some of the state’s neediest.
What is appealing about Lori Trahan, 44, of Westford, the Democratic nominee for the open seat in the Third, is that she can do both. The Globe endorses her in the Nov. 6 election.
Trahan will have no trouble stepping into the role once played by Marty Meehan and Niki Tsongas as an advocate for the district that includes Lawrence, Haverhill, and Fitchburg. And she would help provide a blue bulwark against Donald Trump at a time when it’s desperately needed.
Trahan, grew up in Lowell, attended Georgetown on a volleyball scholarship, and worked for Meehan before starting a consulting career. She has strong district roots and seems most comfortable talking about economic development. She says that if elected she will seek a seat on the education and workforce committee, and wants to push for more vocational training. She also wants to preserve Obamacare and bolster public education. And she wants to ensure that women don’t lose ground in Congress. “Better decisions are made when more women are at the table,” she said.
The scales tip decisively in Trahan’s favor considering the national context. Put simply, the Democrats need to retake the House, and Massachusetts can do its part by electing Trahan.
That might seem unfair to the GOP nominee, Rick Green of Pepperell, who has run a positive campaign. A successful entrepreneur, he would bring a businessman’s perspective to Washington and says he wants to focus on infrastructure issues, like fixing the Concord rotary and monitoring the district’s natural gas pipelines after the Merrimack Valley disaster. In an alternative universe, it would be good for the state to have a presence in the GOP caucus. That’s a key part of Green’s pitch: He’d be a voice for Massachusetts in what is currently the majority party, amplifying the state’s clout.
But the reality is that electing Green would also mean one less vote to put a Democrat in the speaker’s chair, and the country can’t afford that right now. The GOP has proved that it cannot provide the checks and balances called for in the Constitution. Democrats need to retake the majority so they can convene hearings, issue subpoenas, and hold a reckless president accountable.
Trahan gets all that. Indeed, in a meeting with Globe editorial board, she said it was Trump’s victory in 2016 that moved her to run for Congress. “It changed everything for me,” she said. She speaks bluntly about the damage Trump is doing, criticizing the president’s inflammatory rhetoric and connected it to Saudi Arabia’s apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “When the president undermines the media, that has ramifications all over the world,” she said. “This is not the world we want to live in.”
Trahan emerged from a Democratic field of 10 candidates — many who seemed to be running against Trump as much as against one another. In Trahan, though, primary voters picked a candidate who can meet the demands of a dark moment in American politics without sacrificing anything in the local leadership that people should also expect. She’s the best choice Nov. 6.