Accountability and the Electoral System

Accountability and the Electoral System

This post is the second of a twelve-part series to publicize candidate answers to our Electoral Questionnaire. Candidates were required to answer all questions to be eligible for Boston DSA’s endorsement.

Boston DSA will vote on endorsements at the July 21st General Meeting.

This section asks candidates about accountability to the working class, actively engaging with Boston DSA, democratizing the legislative process, felon disenfranchisement, voting policies, and campaign vouchers.

How will you hold yourself accountable to the interests of the working class (and the whole working class, not a narrowly defined subset) rather than to the broad array of interests, constituencies, and donors to which politicians are by default accountable under capitalist democracy?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • My constituents in the 14th Suffolk District (Hyde Park, Roslindale, and West Roxbury) are largely working class people. The people supporting my campaign are largely humble working people who want a just and better world. I’m not beholden to anyone and I’m running for office precisely because the good and humble working people in my district have been ignored and underserved for too long and deserve better. I know where I came from and the breaks I had that made it possible for me to be here today, running for office, and I never for an instant forget that the luck and opportunities I’ve had are not available to everyone, through no fault of their own. I’ve lived too long and seen too much to ever be knocked off my moral center. I will be accountable to all of my constituents and in particular to the least powerful of my constituents because they are why I’m doing this.

Darryn Remillard

  • I had a far more eloquent answer before this form deleted what I’d written. Our campaign is working to assemble retiree, immigrant and working class support. I will endeavor to hold consistent legislative forum events to keep constituents apprised of goings-on on Beacon Hill.

Segun Idowu

  • I will hold myself accountable the same way I intend to get elected: by engaging, person by person, neighborhood group by neighborhood group, the working people of my legislative district, and by continuing to do so throughout my term in office and beyond. I am running to represent my neighbors and residents living and working in the 14th Suffolk, not the corporate or monied interests who would seek to impose their will upon the working class. As a person of color who grew up in what is now a majority-minority district, I feel a personal obligation to protect and advance the interests of those whose lived experiences I share.

Nika Elugardo

  • I will spearhead legislation to make our legislature more transparent and to decentralize power from the Speaker of the House. I will also use media and organizing groups to broadcast my own actions and those of my colleagues. I hope to support developing tools and apps that help make the decisions that currently happen behind closed doors at the legislature more public and accessible, such as killed bills and negotiated horse trades. The public has every right to know what chips human rights and workers’ rights are being traded for, who is making those trades, and why. I will hold myself accountable to the working class because our district is largely comprised of the working class. Special interests, such as developers and MNCs, will not influence me with through campaign contributions nor monopolize my time and efforts. I also recognize that the working class includes people with complex identities that are marginalized by our mainstream economic and political systems. As a woman of color who grew up below the poverty line, I am a member of and ally to these communities. As a representative, I will listen to, learn from, and include in my policy making people of color, the diverse LGBTQ+ communities, people experiencing homelessness, people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, those without documentation, people experiencing substance use disorder, youth, people with dis/abilities, and the many whose identities cannot be grouped under a single label. As for holding myself accountable, I identify as part of the working class as someone who has always sold my labor in order to make my living. I am putting in place a “kitchen cabinet” who will hold me accountable and, frankly, call me out if I even lean towards the corruption that can come with the power of elected office. But let me be clear, I will not be an elected official that governs with just the ideas of a few coveted insiders. I will meet regularly (one might say endlessly) with constituents, especially working-class people and people of color, and will ensure I am listening and acting on their concerns. One clear action I am taking to be accountable is to reject all corporate money, including real estate developer money. I don’t even want there to be a question of whose side I am on.

Ture Turnbull

  • Remaining accountable, means remaining transparent. We can’t have democracy without transparency. Our elected representatives are our “”employees”” and our power to evaluate their work is being stripped away, as the system becomes more opaque. Representatives must be transparent in committee polling and votes, as well as on the floor of the house if we are to ensure that we are being represented appropriately. I pledge to remain transparent in order to open the doors of criticism from my constituents.
    I have also pledged to not take money from any special interest groups, as Citizens United is one of the things that is wrong with government. When corporations hold representatives in their pocket, the cycle of suppressing the working class is fed and representatives are able to get away with being unaccountable.

Darrin Howell

  • I’ll elaborate a bit in the question on consolidated power, but for now I’ll say that I’m running for State Representative — emphasis on REPRESENTATIVE. I’m applying to be the voice of my neighbors in Roxbury and Dorchester. That’s my job. Full stop. So if I’m ever faced with the situation where my community is on one side of an issue and some lobbyist or interest group or donor is on the other, I know where I’m at. And if I ever stumble, I fully expect and welcome my activist friends to step in and show me the right path!

Will you commit to holding regular events with DSA members for education about how the political process works from the inside?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • If this is something that would be useful to the DSA, of course.

Darryn Remillard

  • Yes.

Segun Idowu

  • Absolutely. I got into government primarily because I was cynical toward government as a young college graduate. I joined Councilor Yancey’s office, initially as an intern, to see how government worked from the inside, and either confirm my cynicism or evolve toward a better understanding. I joined the Edward M. Kennedy Institute because the whole organization was dedicated to teaching the public how government works and how individuals can impact it. I believe in the power of government and the important role that each of us has in relation to it. I will use every resource at my disposal as a State Representative to support an informed, engaged, and active citizenry.

Nika Elugardo

  • Yes! I would love to hold events with DSA members and all my constituents to increase knowledge of—and access to!—politics from the inside.

Ture Turnbull

  • Yes

Darrin Howell

  • Absolutely. Open communication and learning is the key to effective advocacy.

Given the inordinate power of the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the resulting tendency of legislation, realistically, to reflect the will of a tightly-controlled hierarchy of legislators rather than the will of the people of the Commonwealth, what would you do to help democratize the legislative process?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • By being an effective fighter and member of the growing progressive caucus on Beacon Hill, but also by fighting for more transparency and nimbleness in the legislative process. I will have a website, regular emails to constituents, regular meetings in the district, and an open door policy, and I will press for innovations that demystify the work of the legislature and bring people we serve into the process at every step.

Darryn Remillard

  • If elected I will not be supporting Speaker DeLeo in his bid for another term. I support legislative committees being able to appoint their own leadership.

Segun Idowu

  • I think that mobilizing the people to apply pressure to the state when it is considering important issues is key here. I will therefore use my office as a platform to give voice to the people of my district. Most importantly, in contrast to the “go-along-to-get-along” mentality so often present in legislative bodies, I have a track record of speaking truth to power, and doing so successfully, to the advantage of those without ready access to the levers of political influence. My leadership with regard to police body cameras and the 2017 Boston NAACP’s report card assessment of the Walsh Administration are two strong examples of this commitment to accountability, transparency, and stronger democracy.

Nika Elugardo

  • I would sponsor legislation to allow committees to elect their own leadership, sponsor legislation to remove the exemption of the legislature to public records laws, and make all committee votes public. As I mentioned above, I will spearhead legislation to make our legislature more transparent and to decentralize power from the Speaker of the House. I will also use media and organizing groups to broadcast my own actions and those of my colleagues. I hope to support developing tools and apps that help make the decisions that currently happen behind closed doors more public and accessible, such as killed bills and negotiated horse trades. The public has every right to know what chips human rights and workers’ rights are being traded for, who is making those trades, and why.

Ture Turnbull

  • I have pledged to vote against another term for Speaker DeLeo, but feel that whoever holds the office of the Speaker, holds too much power. I believe in term limits for the Speaker and will work to reinstate this legislation. I look to the Massachusetts Senate and their model of shared leadership and believe that this could be applied to the House.

Darrin Howell

  • With all due respect to legislative leadership, I don’t represent Winthrop or Quincy. The Speaker is not my constituent, nor is the Majority Leader. But the people of Dorchester and Roxbury are — and I intend to take action in their best interests. I have never been afraid to speak truth to power, and I don’t intend to suddenly find fear once I have “State Representative” in front of my name.
    Many candidates talk about their support for progressive issues, but my advocacy for the priorities we share goes beyond just words. I believe in bringing change through action — and for more than a decade, I have worked on behalf of disenfranchised communities workers to advance social, economic and environmental justice issues at the local, state and national levels.
    I plan to maintain that action-oriented approach as State Representative, working hand-in-hand with individuals and organizations like the members of DSA that are at the vanguard of the fight for progressive change. You can always count on me to be a champion for policies that move us closer to a Commonwealth that is closer to safe, healthy, equitable and welcoming to everyone.

Would you support and create legislation for an end to felon disenfranchisement?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • Of course.

Darryn Remillard

  • Yes.

Segun Idowu

  • Yes. We have been to sure to let those who are formerly incarcerated know of their right to vote, and I will ensure that we continue to educate people during and after the campaign, as well as push for an end to disenfranchisement overall.

Nika Elugardo

  • Yes.

Ture Turnbull

  • Yes

Darrin Howell

  • Absolutely. I have personal experience with incarceration and the aftermath that I would love to share with you when we have a chance to speak. With limited space here, I’ll just say that my youth mirrors the experiences of so many young men and women of color in Roxbury and Dorchester. When you combine a difficult home environment as a kid with limited education and even fewer resources, job prospects as an adult are pretty bleak. So I’ve felt the pull of the street life and the “easy money” it can bring in — along with the hard consequences of those decisions.
    My extensive work on criminal justice, prison and CORI reform over the past 15 years is firmly rooted in that experience. I’ve drawn on that experience to become an effective mentor and organizer — helping neighbors lift themselves up to get beyond these same struggles. And I can state with certainty and personal conviction that we need to end felon disenfranchisement in every aspect of civic life.

Do you support the enfranchisement of all residents, regardless of immigration status or state of detention or incarceration?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • Yes.

Darryn Remillard

  • Yes.

Segun Idowu

  • I support the enfranchisement of all American citizens of voting age. I am also interested in exploring bringing the voting age down in MA for state elections, or working with city officials to lower the age for municipal elections, as was explored in Lowell and elsewhere.

Nika Elugardo

  • Yes.

Ture Turnbull

  • Yes

Darrin Howell

  • Yes. This is about human rights.

Do you support the ability for MA citizens to vote “absentee” simply by making a request without needing a reason for accommodation?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • Of course..

Darryn Remillard

  • Yes.

Segun Idowu

  • Unequivocally, yes.

Nika Elugardo

  • Yes.

Ture Turnbull

  • Yes

Darrin Howell

  • Yes! Why do we even call this “absentee” voting? We should update our laws to establish a clear VOTE BY MAIL policy. No questions asked.

Which of the following policies:

> ranked choice voting,
> voting by mail,
> automatic voter registration,
> same day registration,
> expanded voting days

do you support and why?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • I support all of these and have always supported these changes because in a true democracy, it should be super easy for everyone to vote.

Darryn Remillard

  • I support all of these measures. Our demoracy is in peril because we’ve made it difficult for citizens to participate and the measure will help to alleviate this.

Segun Idowu

  • I support each of these policies, and was happy to see that the Legislature recently passed Automatic Voter Registration. All of these policies make voting easier and more accessible, and in almost all cases, they have been proven ways to increase voter turnout. In the case of ranked choice voting, this option would also make a more diverse pool of candidates viable in general elections and would make it easier for 3rd parties to cross percentage thresholds for certain types of campaign financing and access to debate stages.

Nika Elugardo

  • All of them! I’m very happy that the House just passed H.4667, which would establish automatic voter registration, and I hope the Senate does the same. All these policies will increase the number and diversity of our voting public, which I think can only improve our representation. The way our system currently exists disenfranchises anyone with issues of mobility, inflexible or untraditional work situations, homeless residents, those in jail pre-conviction, young people and first-time voters—the list goes on. These are exactly the folks with a greater stake in who represents them, and I want to be sure they are being afforded the chance to have a say in who represents them. None of these policies is a silver-bullet solution, which is why I think the more ways we give people to vote, the better..

Ture Turnbull

  • I support all of these as democracy should be open to all. We need to ensure that all voices are heard and voters are supported. Current practices intentionally leave out already marginalized groups and fortify inequities and power structures. I believe in anything that empowers citizens to participate in democracy.

Darrin Howell

  • All of the above. Step 1: Remove all systemic barriers to participation in the democratic process. Step 2: Enhance existing structures to ensure everyone has an equal chance to vote, regardless of who they are, where they live or what their circumstances may be.

Would you support the distribution of campaign vouchers for citizens to donate to candidates, as is done in Seattle WA?

Gretchen Van Ness

  • Yes! I have loved this idea since the moment I heard about it!

Darryn Remillard

  • Yes.

Segun Idowu

  • I support the thinking behind Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program. I am very supportive of public campaign financing.

Nika Elugardo

  • Seattle’s new Democracy Voucher program is a fascinating piece of campaign finance reform, and I am totally in favor of efforts to increase transparency, accountability, and accessibility in campaign finance. Seattle’s program is still very new and the first of its kind, but I am interested in exploring such a program and am looking forward to seeing how it plays out in Seattle in 2019.

Ture Turnbull

  • Yes

Darrin Howell

  • I think this is a really cool idea, and I’d love to explore potential funding streams. Our core principle should always be bringing systems of power closer to the community. So as long as money equals speech in America, we need to find ways to level the playing field for regular people.

 


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