New senators Cronin, Gomez pledge focus on equity
Lunenburg and Springfield Dems share expectations for new roles
WHEN THE NEXT Senate is sworn in Wednesday, it will have two new members: John Cronin, a Democrat from Lunenburg, and Adam Gomez, a Springfield Democrat.
Gomez, the body’s first Afro-Latino senator, brings a progressive lens to policy, while Cronin brings a military background. Both senators say they will focus on equity.
The two senators-elect sat down with the Codcast to introduce themselves and discuss their expectations for the session.
Gomez is a community organizer and Springfield city councilor who comes from a Puerto Rican family with a tradition of military service. Gomez says with issues like police reform and race relations at the center of the national dialogue, he can bring his lived experience to the Senate as someone with African and Caribbean heritage.
Cronin is a US Army captain who deployed twice to Afghanistan and has done veterans advocacy work at a legal services center in Boston.
Cronin opposed the Senate version of the recent police reform bill because he thought it went too far in subjecting police officers to civil liability, though he supports the compromise that became law. He resists the labels centrist or progressive, saying he will choose to support bills based on “whether I believe it’s the right thing and whether I believe it’s the right thing for my district.”
Amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Cronin – who has been in the State House just once – said it is harder to build relationships as a new senator when so much is done over Zoom. “Building that camaraderie, building that trust among colleagues is harder,” he said.
Gomez said while he’s not looking forward to his 80-mile commute to Boston when the pandemic ends, he wants to be in the building and meet his Senate colleagues. “It feels somewhat eerie, like you’re walking in to be a senator and you haven’t really walked into the Senate yet and been able to smell the wood or walk into the steps of history,” Gomez said.
Cronin said his priorities this session will be steering the state through the pandemic and recovery, as well as looking at issues related to equity in education and transportation and “finding progressive revenues to make really equitable investments in ourselves as a Commonwealth.”
Cronin supports raising taxes on income over $1 million. “We live in a time of historic inequality. It’s as good a time as ever to be really rich and it’s really expensive to be poor,” Cronin said. “So I think there are equitable investments that, if the Commonwealth is going to continue to grow and be a place where people come to innovate and raise families, that we need to make.” Cronin said the state needs to invest in improving access to transportation, substance use disorder treatment, early childhood education and vocational training.
Gomez said he will speak from a place of “lived experience,” as a city councilor who represents the poorest district in Massachusetts. “When it comes to not being able to pay the rent, I understand exactly what that feels like because I’m still a renter,” he said.
Gomez said there is a lot of hurt and pain now, particularly in poor communities and communities of color. “If we cannot sustain the folks that are hurting the most, then there’s a problem,” Gomez said.
In recent years, some lawmakers have pushed to make the State House more open, and Gomez said he is a “total proponent” of transparency. “I think the public needs to know how you vote and why you voted, because regardless if…they agree with you or not, it’s better for coalition building and also for people in your constituency to understand where you’re coming from,” Gomez said.
Gomez also supports the millionaire’s tax, and he thinks the state should look to raise more revenue from the marijuana industry to support areas like housing and education. “It’s something that is real and it’s something that there’s money on the table and money that can go back to our constituents,” Gomez said.Asked about their legislative role models, Gomez said former US Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, has been his mentor. He also cited state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, a Springfield Democrat, who Gomez said has been “a true champion of me since I was a teenager.”
Cronin pointed to state Rep. Hank Naughton, a Clinton Democrat who is a National Guardsman and, Cronin said, “somebody who never forgot who he is, where he came from, and continues to advocate for Clinton and the rest of the district where he raised his family.”