Tufts Democrats hosts Mass. gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren

Two-term mayor of Newton and Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren speaks at an event sponsored by the Tufts Democrats and Tisch College. (Vintus Okonkwo/ The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts Democrats held a lecture and question-and-answer session with Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and eighth-year Newton, Mass. mayor Setti Warren on Tuesday. The event took place as President Donald Trump gave the 2018 State of the Union Address.

Tufts Democrats President Misha Linnehan, a senior, said that the Q&A with Warren was the first part of a three-part 2018 Gubernatorial Series, which will feature each Democratic candidate up for nomination in Massachusetts: Warren, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie.

Linnehan explained that the general purpose of the Gubernatorial Series is to provide an opportunity for students to get to know the candidates in the Democratic primary race.

“We don’t endorse,” Linnehan said, “but we want to give the candidates a platform on campus. A lot of Tufts students are going to be voting … so we want to make sure we know who the candidates are.”

Jaya Khetarpal, the political director for Tufts Democrats, agreed that the event would be important for Tufts voters.

“We wanted to give students who are interested in the political process the opportunity to understand how a gubernatorial primary works, what issues are facing Massachusetts residents today, and how to get more involved in state politics,” Khetarpal, a junior, told the Daily in an email.

Linnehan also said that Tufts Democrats has hosted State of the Union parties in the past.

“We decided not to do that this year because I don’t think people are interested in watching it,” he said.

He added that the event was explicitly scheduled to counter the State of the Union.

“We wanted to give people an alternative to listen to somebody who’s inspiring, someone who has the opportunity to make progressive change happen and who is going to stand up to Trump, [while] Trump is giving the State of the Union,” Linnehan said.

Ben Kaminoff, the organization’s vice president, said the event gives democrats a means to advance a progressive vision.

“We thought it would be great to showcase Setti, a rising star in the Democratic party, in order to provide an alternative that highlighted a progressive vision for Massachusetts and the country,” Kaminoff, a senior, told the Daily in an email.

Warren’s comments reflected Tufts Democrats’ sentiment regarding Trump.

“I saw this as an opportunity to counter what President Trump has been doing,” Warren said in an interview with the Daily.

He also expressed enthusiasm about engaging with students through the Q&A.

“I was excited to come here and have a conversation with students with forward thinking ideas, energy [and] intellect and to really engage in how we can move our state forward,” Warren told the Daily.

In his lecture, Warren said that he draws political inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 sermon “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”.

“[King] challenged all of us to not embrace the powers that tell us we should accept the status quo,” Warren said.

The mayor also emphasized economic inequality, calling it “the defining issue of this generation.”

Calling for a rise in taxes for wealthy Americans, Warren said, “We know that economic inequality has risen in the last 40 years, because we’re not making these investments for people.”

After this short speech, Linnehan and Kaminoff asked Warren questions submitted by students on topics ranging from the opioid crisis to his plans for environmental action as governor.

Warren, an Iraq veteran, highlighted the importance of civic action and duty. He cited his parents, who “threw themselves into the civil rights movement,” emphasizing the need to “get out of your comfort zone.”

“That’s the way we’re going to resist Trump, and beyond Trump, that’s the way we’re going to get the Commonwealth to a better place,” Warren said.