A Shrewsbury Republican kicked off his bid against U.S. Rep. James McGovern last weekend and is pledging to bring a personal approach to issues like immigration and opioid addiction.
Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, who owns a childcare center, held his campaign launch in Leominster on Saturday. The father of an adopted child born addicted to heroin and the husband of a Colombian immigrant who entered the United States illegally, Sossa-Paquette said his life experiences have shaped his policy views.
“I’m going to come out and tell the truth, and I’m going to show people from experience, not just come out and say ‘Well, I’m a politician and I want to do these things,’ ” Sossa-Paquette said in an interview. “Not only do I want to do these things, this has been my life.”
McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, was first elected to Congress in 1996, when he unseated two-term Rep. Peter Blute, the last Massachusetts Republican elected to Congress. He last faced a Republican challenger in 2010, when he took in 57 percent of the vote to Martin Lamb’s 39 percent.
McGovern represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the communities of Worcester, Northampton, Amherst and Deerfield.
Sossa-Paquette said he threw his hat in the ring because he felt as though voting or donating to candidates was “no longer making a difference.”
“Certainly over the last 10 years, as I’ve watched the political climate and everything happening in Washington, D.C., and seeing it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat in control of power or a Republican in control of power, Washington is just broken,” he said. “The politicians down there are no longer working for us.”
Sossa-Paquette described himself as “very liberal” on social issues and said his “conservative side is going to come out in our government spending too much money and my desire to give the power back to our states.”
He said he would support President Donald Trump on areas where their policies were aligned but said he differs from the Republican president on several issues, including Trump’s decision to exclude transgender recruits from the military.
Sossa-Paquette, whose husband, Julian, entered the country illegally as a minor, also breaks with Trump on some immigration policy.
When the pair were dating, Jeffrey and Julian hired an attorney, and Julian turned himself in to immigration officials and received temporary protections under the law known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Julian received his green card this year and plans to become a citizen, his husband said.
The Trump administration last week announced it would end the Obama-era DACA program within six months.
Sossa-Paquette said he does not believe DACA recipients should be deported or automatically granted citizenship, preferring instead to see them put on a path similar to his husband’s.
“I think we need to give all of these kids a 10-year residency green card, and as long as nothing goes wrong, they should be able to get citizenship just like any other green-card holder,” he said.
Sossa-Paquette and his husband have two children, 16-year-old Ashley and 6-year-old Rylan. Rylan’s mother used heroin, and he was born with underdeveloped lungs and addicted to the drug, Sossa-Paquette said.
Raising a child in need of breathing treatments and watching Rylan’s mother’s efforts at recovery left Sossa-Paquette believing more needs to be done to combat addiction.
“I would like to hold the FDA and the drug manufacturers accountable,” he said. “Like what happened with big tobacco, it’s time to hold drug manufacturers accountable.”