Jul 1, 2022 - Politics

Meet the Boston-area socialists in public office

Illustration of a fist clenching a rose
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

There are more democratic socialists serving in public office in the Boston area than ever before, including two state representatives on Beacon Hill.

What's happening: There's been a steady increase in the communities surrounding Boston. And in November, Kendra Lara became the first modern democratic socialist to join the Boston City Council.

  • Four of Somerville's 13 city councilors are democratic socialists.
  • Cambridge and Medford each have one democratic socialist city councilor.

Why it matters: Leftist leaders in local and legislative positions are trying to push mainstream Democrats toward doing more for social services and the role of government in people's lives.

Zoom in: Somerville state Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven, 35, was elected to the House in 2020 on a platform dedicated to increasing government transparency. She explains democratic socialism as a commitment to providing for all of people's basic needs.

  • Her priorities are "fully funded" schools and transportation systems, plus providing universal health care and housing, she told Axios.
  • She adds that climate justice is part of her priorities, and that protecting the world for the future is key to how she approaches government.

What they're saying: "We believe everyone should be able to live their lives with dignity and respect, and the self-actualizing and self-determination that everyone deserves," Uyterhoeven told Axios.

Rep. Mike Connolly, 42, told Axios that the appeal of democratic socialism to his Cambridge and Somerville constituents is partially about socialist theory and economic philosophy, but mostly about the disappointment voters feel toward mainstream Democratic politics.

  • "In this moment, it's a reaction to the neoliberalism that has dominated our government at every level for many decades now," he told Axios.

Of note: Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and West Roxbury voters sent Kendra Lara, 31, to City Hall last year to replace Matt O'Malley, a more traditional Democrat. Lara did not respond to Axios' request for interview, but she told Jamaica Plain News in January that her background in a Black working-class immigrant family showed her the inequities in the American economy.

  • "Socialism offered me a vision centered on racial justice, a more livable planet, affordable homes, fair wages, safe communities, strong public education, vibrant expressions of culture, and the time and space necessary to envision the world we deserve," Lara said.
  • Lara said she sees herself as part of a local, state and national movement to shift the Democratic Party toward democratic socialism.

The bottom line: Democratic socialists still only make up a tiny fraction of the Democratic Party in the Boston area, but voters in progressive pockets like JP, Cambridge and Somerville are embracing such politics.

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