Shrewsbury Republican to challenge McGovern

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Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2021 4:47:24 PM
Modified: 11/21/2021 4:47:21 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A Republican candidate seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern in 2022 has promised to serve just six years, and he is positioning himself as a moderate alternative to right-wing members of Congress who would prefer to gut social service programs and crack down on legal immigration.

Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette pledged that, if elected, he would serve only three terms, then give up the seat. The goal, he said, is to avoid becoming a “career politician” while making room for a new generation of leaders.

McGovern, 61, born and raised in Worcester, has spent his entire adult life working in politics in Washington, the same city where he went to college, Sossa-Paquette said.

By contrast, Sossa-Paquette, 51, of Shrewsbury, said he is a self-made businessman who opened a pet store chain at 23 and sold it at 29, the same year he earned his high school diploma. He now owns a day care center.

Sossa-Paquette is running his second campaign against McGovern to represent the state’s 2nd congressional district, which is primarily Worcester County but includes Northampton, Amherst, Greenfield and several other towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties.

In 2019, he suffered a stroke on the campaign trail and dropped out of the race; he sold three of his four day care centers, underwent surgeries and learned how to talk again.

On LGBT issues

A gay, married Republican with adopted children, Sossa-Paquette experienced discrimination within the state GOP after announcing his campaign. Earlier this year, Deborah Martell of Ludlow, an elected member of the Republican State Committee, emailed colleagues to say she was “sickened” by Sossa-Paquette’s family structure, and referred to him as “married” in quotes, according to The Boston Globe.

At the time, Sossa-Paquette wrote on social media that “true conservatives don’t presume to ‘tell’ others what a family looks like.”

Sossa-Paquette said he and his husband, Julian, adopted a child who was born addicted to heroin and “lived in a bubble” for the first three years of his life. The couple was living in New Hampshire and won the right to adopt after a costly and protracted court battle.

His message to the LGBT community, he said, is that the previous generation of activists “didn’t pass this baton down correctly. … From 1990 to 2005, we got our rights. All of them. We got our rights faster than any other organization or group in American history.” Now, he said, is a time for celebration, even as the community at large tries to “work out” transgender rights issues.

The current condition of the LGBT movement, he said, does not allow for honest discussions about transgender rights because cisgender people with contrary opinions might be labeled bigots.

Sossa-Paquette said that he recently invited eight transgender people, including members of the military, to his home for an hours-long discussion. While the conversation went well, he maintained his belief that transgender people should not be sent into military combat.

“They can do other tasks, but they can’t be sent into the battlefield. If you’re transitioning and taking all those hormones, you can’t be on the battlefield,” he said.

’A lot of his policieswere right’

Sossa-Paquette is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and so are his husband and daughter, but his young son has many health problems, and he will only be vaccinated “over my dead body.” Sossa-Paquette said he is against vaccine mandates proposed by the Biden administration, saying people should make the decision themselves in consultation with their doctors.

A Donald Trump voter who donated to the former president, Sossa-Paquette sometimes uses the slogan “America First,” deployed in recent years by Trump.

“A lot of his policies were right for America and for American citizens. His tone and his mouth stepped on everything good that he did,” Sossa-Paquette said of the one-term president, who lost reelection in 2020. He would not vote for Trump if he ran again in 2024, he said.

Lowering the poverty rate and fighting human trafficking are among Sossa-Paquette’s policy goals, and he said that, if he were in office now, he would vote against President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better proposal.

“It’s the wrong time. … We just can’t afford it right now. McGovern is going to vote for it, but he shouldn’t,” Sossa-Paquette said, arguing that the bill would pump huge amounts of money into the economy while schools are “sitting on $178 billion” from previous COVID-19 relief packages. He is worried about the government causing a “nasty, nasty recession.”

Human trafficking,immigration

Sossa-Paquette said his husband was trafficked in Colombia at age 9 and escaped at 15. Human trafficking remains a significant and profitable industry, including in the U.S., he said.

“People don’t know how serious of a problem this is, or they think it’s just the cities,” he said. “I plan on being loud and out there and calling out these issues.”

The foster care system, he said, exposes children to a higher risk of human trafficking, a view that is shared by the U.S. Department of State, and Sossa-Paquette said not enough is being done about it.

The stagnating poverty rate is another major issue for Sossa-Paquette, who argued for changes to social service programs.

“With the government systems that are in place, people can’t climb out of (poverty),” Sossa-Paquette said, decrying policies that strip benefits from people who receive modest pay raises at work. “How does a $40 a week (raise) erase $600 a week in benefits? We could solve this in a decade if we simply take the current population … and leave them alone, let them get their raises.”

He said he would take a bipartisan approach to immigration policy, calling DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients “the most vetted people in American history.” The DACA policy allows for the continuous deferral of deportation proceedings against people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Sossa-Paquette said DACA recipients “should absolutely be moved to citizenship without delay.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com. 

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