|Massie Seeks to Bring Long-term Solutions in Bid for Governor|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:07AM / Wednesday, August 23, 2017
|Robert Massie met with voters in the Berkshires on Tuesday.|
Massie spent two hours meeting with voters at Dottie's about issues facing the state, the Berkshires, and his hopes for the gubernatorial nomination.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Sustainability is a word Robert Massie said he hasn't heard the current governor say.
And that is becoming a focal point for the Somerville author and activist, as he launches a campaign for the 2018 gubernatorial election. Massie, a Democrat, says he's running to bring a heightened focus to long-term and progressive solutions to current issues.
"I am by far the strongest progressive, the most experienced in all of the issues. I have put my entire adult life in fighting for progressive causes, for economic justice, for social justice, for racial justice, for the environment, on climate change," Massie said on Tuesday when he met with voters at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
Massie says he has a vision for the future. His background has been particularly focused on renewable energy but he extends his vision to the economy and social issues as well.
"The good news is everything we want to do is already being done. The bad news is we are not aware of it. We're still going around saying Massachusetts is in the lead, America is in the lead. We are not. We are 20 years behind most countries," Massie said. "Our governor doesn't seem to be aware of that nor does he seem to care."
For example, Massie said on a recent trip to Denmark he learned that there is a requirement that 50 percent of energy comes from offshore wind. Yet, here at home Gov. Charlie Baker has a proposal to get to 10 percent in 10 years. Massie said countries overseas have already figured out the financing, the technology, and have planning to build offshore facilities down pat. He would like to see Massachusetts follow suit.
"I've just had it. We should be moving forward on regional transportation, which is a 10- to 20-year project and it is not going to exist unless we get started right now. If we re-elect this governor, you can kiss it goodbye for another 20 years. He is not going to put the funding, he is not going to create the political will, and he does not care in the long-term about what goes on," Massie said.
He said not enough is being done for education and in a global economy, Massachusetts students are entering the workforce with $60,000 to $100,000 in student debt while those overseas are getting a free education. He said technological advancements are threatening to decimate entire industries in coming years — such as self-driving vehicles that could replace an entire job market for truck drivers — and there are no plans to address it.
And health care is still somewhat stalled and left unaddressed. He supports eventually getting to a single-payer system, but how to structure it is still under debate, he said.
"We have tried everything else and we have demonstrated that nothing else really works," Massie said of health care.
So why should people believe he's the one to lead the charge? Massie says he has the passion, dedication, and experience fighting for progressive issues to do it. That comes from his background.
Massie was born with hemophilia, which lead to bleeding into his joints as a child. The joints would swell, damage the muscle, and then return to normalcy. And then it would happen again, causing more damage.
"By the age of 4, I could not walk. I was in leg braces. I was in a wheelchair. And one of the things I learned very early is that people are scared of you if you look different. I had to walk into classrooms and places, wanted to be friends, and I had to learn that people had their instincts, very human instincts, and I was the person who had to work to create the bridge between me and others, to reassure them," Massie said.
"That is something that people who are excluded often have to do. They face prejudice, they face snap judgments, they face discrimination, and yet it is not the person who is making those judgments that have to reach out."
That was his early induction into fighting for social justice. By the time he got to Princeton University, where he went on to earn his degree in history, Massie was a self-described "full on social activist." He fought against clubs that barred women. He fought for labor rights. And he was active in fighting apartheid in South Africa.
Eventually, he moved onto Yale Divinity School and was later ordained an Episcopal minister. He spent three years there before taking a year off to work with Ralph Nader and edited a book on corporate power.
"The table of contents reads like the Bernie [Sanders] agenda today, except it came out 37 years ago. In fact, I joke that it came out before he was the mayor of Burlington so I like to say he read my book," Massie said.
He then returned to be ordained and worked in a New York City church, where he started a homeless shelter. By then, he had it in his mind he wanted to run for political office at some point. But he found out that through treatment for hemophilia, he had HIV. He thought his time to make lasting impacts had a ticking clock.
After just two years in the church, he moved on to Harvard Business School.
"I believe the key to social justice, economic justice, was to understand how the capitalist economy really worked — on the good side creating jobs and allowing markets to function and on the bad side creating limited markets, destroying markets, taking advantage of structures that oppressed people," Massie said.
Five years later he became a professor at Harvard Divinity School, where he taught classes on economics and its role in social change. He wrote books about apartheid. In 1993, he was awarded a scholarship to go to South Africa, at a time when the country was rewriting its constitution.
While South Africa was debating long-term visions for their future, he returned home to find the same old political discussions.
"That was just disgusting. At a time when we faced many of the problems that are getting worse now, we were debating crime, welfare, and taxes," Massie said.
"I did what any person without any name recognition or experience or money would do, I ran for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Oddly enough I won the primary, which was very exciting, and I discovered how much I loved grassroots politics and campaigning. We got utterly creamed by William Weld and Paul Cellucci in their re-election."
After losing the election, he continued those grassroots organizing efforts. He created Ceres, which brought environmental groups and investors together to "use shareholder power to move corporations forward on the major environmental issues." The investors pushed for more environmental sustainability in the private sector. Eventually, he was part of the group that created the Global Reporting Initiative, which measures a company's sustainability for investors.
In 1994, he had found that he had a genetic resistance to HIV. He continued to push forward with his economic and environmental efforts, creating the Network on Climate Risk. And then he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and liver cirrhosis. He needed a transplant and it would take years.
"I was suddenly snatched out of the flow of doing things and I did what all you would do, I read a biography of every president of the United States and other biographies of great Americans," Massie said.
Eventually, eight years ago, he got the transplant, which took care of the hepatitis, the cirrhosis, and hemophilia. He went back to work. He started the New Economy Coalition and the Sustainable Solutions Lab — the latter studying the impacts climate change on people with low income or of color.
In 2011, he announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate. But, like many Democrats at the time, pulled his name from consideration once Elizabeth Warren entered the field.
He has written multiple books throughout the career and is now focusing on his campaign for governor. While boasting of his progressive views, he called himself a "mixed candidate" because he has a strong business understanding and background. He said he's shown the ability to build coalitions and the drive to push for things that others have said were impossible.
Massie is the third candidate to enter the race for the Democratic primary for governor. He faces Jay Gonzalez, a former state secretary of administration and finance, and Setti Warren, mayor of Newton, in the Democratic primary.
"Whoever wins this primary is going to go into a general election with Elizabeth Warren running for re-election, who raised $38 million last time, had 43 field offices, it is going to be a contested race, turnout is going to go up, that favors Democrats. What that tells you is that the person who wins the Democratic primary for governor is actually very likely going to become the next governor," Massie said.
Massie held the meet and greet with possible voters Tuesday afternoon and then held a night session with activists from Indivisible Pittsfield.