Salem News: After tumultuous year, Moulton hopes to take back the House in 2018
By: Ethan Forman
SALEM — Congressman Seth Moulton says 2017 was “a tumultuous year,” given the upheaval in Washington, D.C., during the first year of the Trump administration.
But it was also an exciting year for him personally, as he married his wife, Liz, in his hometown of Marblehead.
It was a busy year, too. His district office closed 906 cases and recovered nearly $753,000 in denied or delayed benefits for constituents.
Moulton held nine town halls this year, and held 39 such events during his first term. He also has made economic development in Lynn a priority.
The Lynn Economic Advancement and Development Team, a partnership of local officials, top state economic development and transportation officials, Lynn lawmakers and Moulton, has helped jump start $156 million in new development in Lynn, mostly in the private sector.
In addition, 2017 was the year in which the 39-year-old second-year congressman and veteran Marine Corps infantry officer raised his profile, as he set his sights on taking back Congress for the Democrats in 2018.
There was even talk of Moulton running for president in 2020 — around the time he attended the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry in Iowa in September. It’s a rumor the congressman has consistently brushed aside.
Moulton said he is running for a third term in Congress because there is a lot more to do.
“I think we can take back the House in 2018, that ‘Trumpism’ is being repudiated even in the South,” he said Wednesday, the day after Democrat Doug Jones scored a narrow victory over Republican and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in a special election for a vacant U.S. Senate seat in the Republican stronghold of Alabama.
Moulton said Jones was a strong candidate in contrast to Moore. In the final weeks of the race, Moore, 70, faced accusations of sexual impropriety with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
“I think we had a great candidate and we are going to have a great U.S. Senator,” said Moulton, saying that Jones prosecuted suspects and members of the Ku Klux Klan for their part in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four black girls were killed. It was a pivotal event in the civil rights movement.
The Jones victory, however, does not mean Democrats can become complacent, Moulton said.
“The message that we cannot take from this is to simply rest on our laurels,” he said.
While he is committed to working with Republicans, Moulton is also behind a push to recruit a new crop of candidates — particularly veterans and those who are service-oriented — to run in swing districts across the country.
It’s the best way, he said, to attract independents and Republicans. Taking back the House, he said, is the best way to blunt the Trump administration “and restore some balance to Washington.”
One measure of his success in this effort was a fundraiser in September that raised $600,000 for his Salem-based Serve America PAC. The money helped to boost 12 congressional candidates’ campaigns. That number, Moulton said, is now up to 19 candidates.
“These are true servant leaders,” said Moulton. “They are the kind of leaders we need in Washington.”
The four-tour Iraq War veteran has also made it his mission to help veterans.
Almost one year ago, his Faster Care for Veterans Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The law requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pilot an online self-scheduling app for VA patients, the kind many in the private sector use to schedule doctor’s appointments. The app is in its pilot stage, and the Bedford VA Medical Center is one of the test sites, according to Moulton’s office.
Moulton, who receives his health care through the VA hospital, said the app will also help free up phone lines for those who prefer to call to schedule appointments.
Moulton said one of his most meaningful initiatives are Veterans Town Halls, community forums which allow veterans to share their stories. The first one was held in Marblehead on Veterans Day 2015. This year, he held his third such town hall in Abbot Hall in Marblehead, and there were 26 ones like it held across the country.
Also this year, Moulton filed a bipartisan bill called the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act, which aims to waive the Social Security Disability Insurance five-month waiting period for people living with ALS. The legislation was filed in honor of Beverly’s Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball standout whose battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis helped sparked the Ice Bucket Challenge, raising tens of millions for research and other causes. The bill has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee and is awaiting a hearing, according to Moulton’s office.
Moulton said the fact the bill is stuck is one of the reasons Democrats need to take back the House.