Pease says ‘We should not shy away from being progressives’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Seven Democrats are vying in the Sept. 4 primary for the 1st Franklin District House seat being vacated by 25-year incumbent Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. The seat serves residents in 19 towns, including Huntington, Chesterfield, Middlefield, Williamsburg, Worthington, Cummington, Goshen and Plainfield in Hampshire County. There is no Republican candidate. This is one in a series of profiles on the candidates.

Casey Pease has turned his young age of 22 into a chief selling point of his candidacy for the seat held by state Rep. Stephen Kulik, a fellow Worthington resident and former selectman. 

Pease, whose grandmother was the first woman to serve on the Selectboard in Worthington, where he has served as chairman of the town Democratic committee and as a volunteer firefighter, says he was inspired by her and Kulik. He has been studying political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and was a field organizer in the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Using a term he uses often, Pease says he has “the energy and the passion to be bold” as well as a passion for political action. He argues that his candidacy is also about inspiring other young people to become more politically active.

“We have to be bold and fight hard for it,” he said at one candidates forum, speaking on what he believes is a need to pass a single-payer health care system. “I’m a huge supporter of Medicare for all. The majority of people want that, and we can move toward that policy, but it again means organizing so we can make that happen, to put pressure on the leadership of the House so that we can vote on that policy. And in doing so, you’re going to create equity all throughout our community and our commonwealth. Let’s pass single payer. We have to be bold. And organize the community around it.”

Pease, describing himself as “one of the youngest organizers in the Bernie Sanders campaign,” said he was “inspired … not just by what I saw in that campaign, but by the thousands and thousands of young people and disengaged people who finally saw hope, who finally thought that their voices mattered and they have an ability to create change in our society.”

Among his stances are “standing with immigrants by backing the Safe Communities Act, reinstating term limits for the speaker of the House, eliminating cash bail to end the practice of jailing people for being poor.”

“We should not shy away from being progressives,” Pease said, “but instead organize our communities around our vision and realize it’s … voting for a vision, for a community, and getting the community out to make that happen. This race is about who has the deep local understanding to be an effective state rep and the strong progressive record to be a transformative one.”

Pease told one gathering that he grew up in a politically conservative family, with a father who voted for Donald Trump, but being the liberal that he is, he said he knows how to be part of a broader coalition and is “able to find where we can find common ground.”

When he campaigned for Sanders in Rust Belt states, he said, “I was talking to people on all ends of the spectrum. When we talk about supporting farms or access to health care or moving to green energy, that’s not a partisan issue. … I’m proud to call myself a progressive… but you do have to figure out how can you work with other members of the Legislature to accomplish our vision.”

Whether it’s the need to adequately fund public schools, public transportation or health care, Pease said, “A lot of times, it comes down to, ‘How do we find the money to do it?’ It’s moving this state to progressive taxation so that we can actually not only talk about what’s right, what’s smart, what makes sense, but (how) we can actually do it.”

Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Recorder

Cory Bisbee