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Eric Lesser, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts

As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Eric Lesser, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts.

An energetic, visionary, and proven leader, Eric Lesser will partner with our next Governor to make sure she is the most successful Governor in the country. Together, they will work to fix our broken transportation system, build more housing, create better jobs, protect our environment, and make our state more affordable and equitable. 

Eric understands that Massachusetts has so much going for it. But despite our Commonwealth’s considerable advantages, it’s harder and harder to live here. It’s too expensive – housing is out of control, transportation is unreliable, and childcare costs are crushing families. Meanwhile, small pockets of our state boom while entire regions are left behind. Our current situation doesn’t work: it creates skyrocketing prices and gridlock in some places, and vacuums jobs and opportunity from others. 

Eric is ready to confront the reality that Massachusetts, despite its progressive history, has become one of the most unequal places in the country. Especially as we face the crippling impact of COVID-19, we have an obligation and an opportunity to do better.

Eric first ran for Senate in 2014. He was elected on his vision to confront the opioid epidemic, create high-tech manufacturing jobs, and advocate for a bold new idea — high-speed passenger rail between Pittsfield, Springfield and Boston — to finally tie our Commonwealth together.

Eric hit the ground running, authoring successful legislation to close the pharmacy shopping loophole for addictive opioid painkillers. He also passed a new law creating a bulk buying program for Narcan — a drug that reverses opioid overdoses — to ensure that schools and first responders could afford this life-saving treatment.

To create economic opportunity for a new generation, Eric worked across party lines to help pass the most significant zoning reform in 40 years, unlocking thousands of units of new housing construction and making homeownership possible again for young families. He stood up to financial sector lobbyists to pass a Student Loan Bill of Rights, setting new protections for almost one million student borrowers statewide.

Eric’s vision is about taking our Commonwealth’s greatest attributes and extending them to the people and regions that are overlooked. He is leading efforts to transform our former industrial centers like Springfield, Lowell, Brockton and New Bedford into hubs for building solar panels, medical equipment, and wind turbines. He has worked with civil rights groups and entrepreneurs to diversify our high-growth technology sector. He led the Senate’s efforts to extend Governor Deval Patrick’s landmark life-sciences initiative, leading to new medical research centers in Springfield, Greenfield, Worcester, and Cape Cod, and new paid internship and apprenticeship programs at our community colleges and urban high schools.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Eric discusses his background in the Pioneer Valley (01:46)
  • Eric’s political experience, prior to becoming a State Senator, working four years for President Obama. (03:55)
  • The issues facing Western Massachusetts that Eric feels uniquely qualified to address, if elected (07:37)
  • The Casino project in Springfield (09:30)
  • Eric’s thoughts on the Opioid Crises (11:30)
  • Statewide housing cost reduction (15:09)
  • Eric’s views on Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented residents of Mass. (16:39)
  • The Fair Share Amendment, aka The Millionaire’s Tax (17:05)
  • Closing Statement (17:39)

Connect with Eric Lesser

For more information on all things Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I want to introduce you to a new segment of our show the Meet the candidate series. It is intended to give candidates running for public office, a platform in a voice so voters know who is running for office, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if they are so fortunate to be elected. So please feel free to share these interviews with your family and friends and citizens around this fine land because an educated and informed population is essential for a healthy democracy. And isn’t that what we all really want a healthy democracy? Enjoy the interviews stay healthy. My name is Jimmy tingle, and I approve this message. Hi, everybody, this is Jimmy, welcome to our show. This is a new dimension to the show called Meet the candidate and today’s candidate is Eric lessor. He is running for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. He is a state senator representing Western Massachusetts, including long metal Springfield Chicopee and several other towns in Western Mass. He has been a state senator and eight years, everybody please welcome to the show, The One and Only Mr. Eric lessor. Hello, Eric. How are you?

Eric Lesser 1:15
Hey, Jimmy, thanks so much for having me quite the intro. I love that.

Jimmy Tingle 1:19
We want to elevate everybody’s profile. And we weren’t just want to introduce our audience to the people who are running to represent the interests and the people of Massachusetts. So our goal is to give all the candidates a platform to explain who they are, why they’re running, why the particular position they’re running for and what they hope to accomplish. And that if they are so fortunate to be elected. So Eric, tell us tell my audience a little bit about yourself. Well, thanks so much, Jimmy.

Eric Lesser 1:46
It’s an honor to be here. I really appreciate all you do. You do so much for our party for our state. And I really appreciate the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with you and of course with all your fans and followers. So, just to introduce myself. I’m Eric lessor. I’m a State Senator. As you mentioned, from the Pioneer Valley, I represent two cities Springfield and Chicopee. As well as seven towns up and down the Connecticut River, and the Chicopee and Ludlow rivers. It’s a really diverse area. Jimmy I represent some of the densest urban communities in the state. I also have a town without a stoplight. I have a fortune 50 financial services company MassMutual located in my district, I also have one of the largest Air Force Reserve bases and dozens of small family owned factories and machine shops lining lining the chickapea and Ludlow rivers and a lot of agricultural communities as well. I’m really running because I think it’s important to have a State leadership team that reflects our entire state. And that gives voice to often forgotten corners of our state. It’s not only Western Mass that increasingly feels left out. Of course, many of our neighborhoods in Boston have been left out of the womb times we’ve seen in certain parts of Massachusetts, the Merrimack Valley central mass, the south coast, parts of the cape are also feeling this. I think I have a role to play as lieutenant governor coming from the west. Utilizing my experience from working in the state senate to really be an important partner to our next governor. Help make sure that her agenda is a success and that we’re reaching all communities in the state. Well,

Jimmy Tingle 3:25
well Eric, let me ask you you actually represent a town that has no stoplight Is that what you said

Eric Lesser 3:32
exactly? Yes.

Jimmy Tingle 3:33
Okay, here’s my question. If elected, will you get them a stoplight?

Eric Lesser 3:37
You know what if they want the stoplight we’ll get them to stoplight but you know sometimes the communities you know prefer no stop like they don’t want the traffic. You know if there’s a stoplight. There’s traffic’s

Jimmy Tingle 3:48
right. Okay, so no intersections. Okay.

Eric Lesser 3:52
That’s our winning platform. No intersections, no stopping.

Jimmy Tingle 3:55
Right. So you’ve been a state senator, for eight years. And before that, what was your political experience before that?

Eric Lesser 4:02
And so I before I was in the State Senate, I worked for four years for President Obama. I started actually my big break for him, was carrying his suitcases all around New Hampshire during the first in the nation primary back in 2007. And 2008. The joke Jimmy was that I never once lost the bag. So Senator Obama used to joke that I nobody can say Lester doesn’t deliver. But I traveled with him to 47 states in six countries during that campaign, and then worked as the assistant to David Axelrod in the in the West Wing of the White House for the first two years of the administration. And then after that worked at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, which is the kind of built in Think Tank economic think tank for the president on economic issues. Before coming home with my family, back to my hometown, where I grew up in Western Mass.

Jimmy Tingle 4:55
I imagine you probably did, but you must have occasionally pinched yourself when you’re like walking around the White House carrying Obama’s bags?

Eric Lesser 5:05
No, I mean, it was an incredible honor, both to be part of that campaign from the earliest phases. You know, I remember, in New Hampshire, you know, he would go into a living room, you know, it was it was house by house, you go into a living room, talk to 15 people. That was a successful day. And then of course, it’s snowballed from there. But it’s a great honor to work in any way White House, it’s a great honor. I think in particular, it really meant a lot of working for him seeing how he operated, seeing how he handled pressure and stress. Seeing how he built a team and motivated a team is our lessons that I just feel incredibly grateful for some big stuff happened, you know, in those first two years, a lot of fun stuff, right, the Affordable Care Act repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Jimmy Tingle 5:49
So did and then you after that you ran for a state senator.

Eric Lesser 5:53
So you know, I was weren’t motivated that one. So I was working, you know, in DC, and I was working at the White House. But my start in politics actually didn’t begin with President Obama began in my hometown in Longmeadow. When I was about 16, there was a round of budget cuts made actually at the Statehouse the building I now work in. And I remember the principal at the time of my public high school called an assembly, packed a whole bunch of us into the auditorium lined a bunch of teachers up at the front of the room, and told us that they weren’t coming back next year because of layoffs because of budget cuts. And I remember sitting there and just feeling really angry, Jimmy, you know, that 14 and 15 and 16 year olds are being asked to pay the price for bad decisions. So we went out and we did something called a prop two and a half override campaign. We went out knocked on doors handed out leaflets do all the things you do in an effort like that. And I remember sitting in the town hall the night of the first vote, as the clerk was counting the ballots. And when the clerk announced that the vote had passed, there was a woman sitting next to me, who had been clutching a pink slip. She literally ripped the pink slip up and threw it in the garbage as the vote passing her job had been saved. I just felt grateful for that. Because it just taught me that politics really, it comes from the grassroots, it comes from the community up and as incredible as it was to work at the White House and the incredible history you see working there. I really wanted to get back to my home community, I wanted to get back to the community I grew up in, which was facing a lot of challenges. You know, Western Mass has faced a lot of challenges in our in our in recent times and wanted to be part of helping solve things on a local

Jimmy Tingle 7:37
level. So the issues facing Western Mass, tell us about how you would be uniquely qualified to represent those issues. If you were elected as lieutenant governor.

Eric Lesser 7:48
Well, first off, you know, I’m I want to be a partner to our next governor support our next governor’s agenda at the end of the day, that’s the job of Lieutenant Governor. And it’s very important to me that all of our communities in the state are being are being helped and lifted. So the agenda is not specific to Western Mass or specific to Boston or to the caper or any other region, it’s really about how all the different regions of our state work together, to utilize their their respective assets to help each other. So let me just give one example very, very specific one, connecting our state by rail, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Boston, this would be a transformational project that is closer than it’s ever been to happening. There’s money in the Biden infrastructure bill to get it to get it done. The single biggest challenge you’ve got in the metro Boston area, Jimmy, is nobody can afford to live there. Housing prices are skyrocketing rents. I mean, just the quality of life is really dragging people down, the traffic is bad, the costs are really high housing is getting out of reach for people. childcare costs are high. Western Mass, in many case, respects has the inverse challenge. We’ve got a high quality of life, there’s a lot of open space, but we’re not connected to that red hot economy in the Boston area. So rail helps both right, it gives Eastern mass access to that good quality of life, it gives Western Mass connection to that red hot job market and red hot economy. And by the way, it takes 1000s of cars off the road and helps fight climate change. So it’s items like that, you know, working to connect our regions working to give voice to our different regions, so that everybody is helped, same time.

Jimmy Tingle 9:30
Now you have a casino out there in Western Mass in Springfield. Were you in office when that became a reality? And how was that working?

Eric Lesser 9:40
Yeah, so that it was in progress when I was running in 2014. In fact, there was a ballot question in 2014. About about continuing with the project. I supported the casino project, it was important from a job point of view. The local aid has been very important helpful to the city, as has the revenue that’s come since then. But I think we have to have our eyes wide open. Right, we can have the casino. I think on the whole, it’s done a lot in terms of providing really good jobs and providing, again, a lot of good local age stream for the community and for the surrounding region. But that’s not going to be the sustainable solution to our challenges, right? For anyone. And by the way, the the Encore project hasn’t done that, you know, in Everett either. What we need to be focused on are those are those hard issues, the job training, you know, the fighting addiction, you’ve been such a leader on that, Jimmy, we have terrible opioid crisis that’s getting worse, as we’ve come out of as we’ve come out of COVID, the affordability issues, we need more housing, we’ve got to get childcare more accessible. That’s what we’ve really got to be focused on just one example. Jimmy, one of the things I’ve committed to do as lieutenant governor, is work with our vocational schools, our superintendents with Deci, which is our state education agency to close the waitlist at our vocational schools, we could create 7000 jobs tomorrow, just by filling the slots, or just by creating the slots for the young people that are waiting to get into these programs. And you think about all of the challenges we’ve got with supply chains with worker shortages. It’s unnecessary, because we’ve got people ready to work. We don’t have the vocational and training programs, with the enough capacity to make it happen.

Jimmy Tingle 11:30
Right. And it’s so obvious that not college isn’t for everybody, and we need it. Try to get a plumber, try to get a roofer try to get an electrician, right. I mean, we need these things desperately. Tell me I know you were active with the opioid crisis. I know it’s a serious problem everywhere. It’s hit Western Mass pretty hard. Tell me your experience with that. And what do you think some of the things you’d like to do as lieutenant governor if you are elected?

Eric Lesser 11:57
So first, you know, I got very involved in the in the opioid crisis. I’ll tell you, Jimmy in 2014, when I was a first time candidate, I spent most of my time knocking on doors. And I would actually spend large portions of the day going around knocking on doors, as I’m sure you’ve done in your, in your races. And I noticed something when I would knock on the door. I mean, typically people weren’t home if it was the middle of the day, which is understandable. There’d be seniors that would come to the door, sometimes retired people. But I increasingly saw young people 2020 to 23 years old, who would answer the door and oftentimes, people were high, or were clearly struggling. And I saw this again and again and again, as I was knocking through my communities. And it was very clear this statistics backed up what I what I was seeing. And then out shortly after I was elected, a group of parents came to see me Oh, whose children had overdosed on on on it wasn’t only opioids, but who had overdosed on on substances. And you’ve done a lot of these meetings, Jimmy and a lot of this advocacy. There’s nothing more horrific than speaking to parents who have gone through that. So one of the things that we worked on was a bulk purchasing program for Narcan, which is the overdose reversal drug. We helped get 1000s of doses of Narcan to cities and towns across the state. We helped get it into the hands of school nurses, police officers, firefighters, there was a department of public health report that came out a couple of weeks ago that said that that bat excuse me about a year ago, more than a couple of weeks ago, but that said that that program has helped save hundreds of lives because of the number of times it’s been administered. And the people that got the Narcan access that wouldn’t have been otherwise able to have it without that program. But of course, Narcan is the last step right, we need to avoid the overdose in the first place. And that’s where we need to do a lot more on treatment beds. We have a terrible, terrible shortage. We need to do a lot more to support the workforce, the social workers, the human service workers, the mental health workers, the case managers, the recovery coaches, that are involved in the treatment, we got desperate shortages, and we need to do a lot more and I’ve been passionate about this, to provide alternatives to pain management. For example, I’ve been a big booster of having insurance companies pay for acupuncture. Because we know one of the drivers of the opioid crisis was insurance companies, healthcare providers pushing people to these opioid, these powerful opioid prescription pills and then people got into trouble after they after they took them after largely was often workplace injury. So we’ve really got to do a lot. But I think as lieutenant governor, you can really play a role getting the different people around the table, getting the different stakeholders working together, working, of course at the direction of the governor to help implement these changes. You mentioned housing Do you think there’ll be an effort to increase the availability the supply of houses? Because it is a supply and demand issue?

Jimmy Tingle 15:09
Do you see the next governor may be working towards something like that to reduce the cost of housing statewide?

Eric Lesser 15:15
Well, it has to we have no choice. We have to, you know, we’re very close to turning into California, really, in terms of just skyrocketing costs, and of course, homelessness and all of the other issues that come with that. I was in Linn, with with Mayor Nicholson in June, and he was walking me through some of the challenges they’ve had, for example, with people that are living in very unsafe conditions, you know, people families piled up in single rooms because they can’t afford any other option. A growing number of their inspections are failing because of the increasingly unsafe and unstable housing people are being forced into, we’ve got to do a few things. We’ve got to change our zoning, we’ve got to create more transit oriented development, we’ve got to create more denser development, we need more units across the board. We also need to do a lot more to expand aid for our renters, including expanding the raft program, we need were appropriate to do rent stabilization efforts and other tenant protection efforts. And we need to do a lot more around expanding shelter and supportive, supportive housing for people that might have fallen into homelessness. But the key really is the zoning. We’ve got to get the housing construction and the unit Units unit development to a place that actually matches the population growth and the economic growth we’ve seen in recent years. Okay, great.

Jimmy Tingle 16:39
We only have a couple of minutes left. I just wanted some quick answers on some of these the driver’s license for undocumented Did you support that? You think that’s a good idea?

Eric Lesser 16:48
I did. I’ve supported it since my first day in the legislature. I think this is an important issue for being able to connect people to their employment to medical appointments. And it is a safety issue, because it helps ensure people are properly taking tests and properly prepared to drive and operate motor vehicles. So yes,

Jimmy Tingle 17:05
and the millionaire’s tax, the Fair Share amendment. Do you support that?

Eric Lesser 17:09
Yep, I’ve been a supporter the fair share of him. And again, since my first days in the legislature, I co sponsored the constitutional amendment, to all the points we’ve just been talking about Jimmy, we’ve got to have a progressive tax structure in our state, that reflects the changes in our economy, which has been an increasing concentration of wealth at the very, very top. We’ve got to we’ve got to be able to have tax policy that reflects that, and then invests in these urgent priorities we’ve got around in particular transportation and education.

Jimmy Tingle 17:39
We have a minute left, Eric, I want you to make the pitch to our listeners, tell them where they can make a donation where they can volunteer, whatever you’d like to say in the final minute. Well,

Eric Lesser 17:49
thank you so much, Jimmy, and thank you to everybody listening and watching. You can check me out at Eric Era, C L e. S s Of course, you can make a contribution there, join our mailing list, reach out to me directly. And I’ll just say, you know, we’ve got big challenges in front of us, we see what’s happening with the economy right now with the stock market inflation, gas prices, we have an incredible state that has so many assets. But I think we all kind of feel like despite all the progress and all the things we’re proud of in our state, it’s not working the way we needed to. I think the set of experiences I have representing communities far away from Beacon Hill, fighting for economic development, closing the weightless our voc schools. Partnership I had working in the Obama administration in the federal experience is going to help me be the right partner to our next governor. Because at the end of the day, that’s what a lieutenant governor is. And that’s what Democratic primary voters are going to be voting on on September 6 is the team that’s going to help us address these challenges. So really appreciate it.

Jimmy Tingle 18:50
Thank you so much, Eric. Great to speak with you today. We will see you on the campaign trail, I am sure. Thank you. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity at Jimmy Thank you

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