IN BID FOR CONGRESS, GOP’S GREEN MINIMIZES TRUMP’S INFLUENCE ON THE RACE
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON, MARCH 27, 2018…He might garner more newspaper ink than anyone in memory, but President Donald Trump takes second-billing to transportation projects in the minds of many Merrimack Valley voters, according to a Republican hoping to represent those same voters in Congress.
“On the campaign trail, people don’t talk about the president. Really, what I hear about is roads and bridges: the Concord Rotary, the Rourke Bridge in Lowell,” Rick Green told the News Service on Tuesday.
A founder of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which has targeted Democrats with critical mailers, Green threw his own hat into the political arena when Lowell Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, a Democrat, announced last year she would not seek another term.
While the 47-year-old Pepperell businessman has no competition on the Republican side, more than a dozen Democrats are contending for their party’s nomination to succeed Tsongas.
That bodes well for Green’s chances in November, according to Richard Tisei, a Republican who was the Senate minority leader and who made two unsuccessful bids for a North Shore congressional seat in 2012 and 2014.
“It’s going to be really hard for anybody to really emerge the day after the primary in strong shape, and I think Rick is a good candidate,” Tisei told the News Service. He said, “It’s always an uphill battle when you’re a Republican in Massachusetts, but the district is good and shown it’s pretty independent-minded in the past.”
Green said he has been focused on the opioid scourge, although he has not yet formulated an opinion on Trump’s call to use the death penalty as a deterrent for those who deal large quanties of opioids and other drugs.
“I don’t pay attention to the day in and day out, to some of the talk and the chatter that’s going on,” Green told the News Service when asked about the president’s proposal. He said, “Honestly, I need to think more about it.”
After Trump touted his capital punishment proposal during a trip to New Hampshire in mid-March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised U.S. attorneys to pursue the death penalty under existing federal laws that prohibit racketeering, drug-related murder and “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs.”
“The President and the Attorney General recognize the extreme severity of the opioid epidemic and what it is doing to our communities,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told the News Service in a statement about Sessions’ approach. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will review matters on a case by case basis. As with all death penalty eligible cases, careful consideration will be given to the severity of the crime and the weight of the evidence.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no one has been legally executed in the United States in the modern era for anything other than homicide.
“The Trump administration’s suggestion that we execute our way out of the opioid crisis is a horrifying idea, and another example of President Trump choosing to seize on fear and lead with cruelty,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, in a statement to the News Service.
Asked about Trump’s opioid plan in general, Green said, “In my district, that’s not what folks are talking about,” emphasizing ongoing work at the community level to treat people addicted to drugs. The president said his plan would also provide overdose-reversing drugs to first responders and a seek a significant reduction in narcotic prescriptions, two responses to the crisis that state leaders have also pursued in Massachusetts.
A figure who inspires both fealty and derision, Trump could complicate Republicans routes to electoral offices around the country.
Green backed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 presidential primaries and voted for Trump in the general election, he told the News Service. Asked if he supports Trump, Green said, “Look, I support the people of the Third District.”
The divide between pro-Trump and anti-Trump members of the Republican Party likely won’t shake Green’s base of support much because he is running unopposed in the primary, Tisei said.
“Rick’s very independent minded and I think he’s going to have to put a lot of thought into how he’s going to handle national issues,” Tisei told the News Service. “I think we’re living in more of a politicized world than we have in the past, but voters in Massachusetts are pretty independent-minded and I think that at the end of the day, yeah, party matters, but the individual matters more.”
Tisei and other Republicans were at the Hampshire House at the bottom of Beacon Hill on Tuesday for what Green described as a “strategy meeting” for his campaign finance committee.
“He’s got a great shot. He really does,” said Jim Rappaport, a former Republican party chairman who is on the MassFiscal board.
The biggest statewide races this year should be Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s campaign for a second term and Democrat U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bid for a return to the U.S. Senate. Rappaport suggested Baker would be a “much stronger head of the ticket” than Warren.
“I think the governor’s race is going to drive the outcome more than the Senate race,” Rappaport told the News Service at the Hampshire House.