After almost two years of lobbying, a band of liberal political activists have persuaded Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Richard Neal to endorse some of their legislation.. This as the veteran congressman faces a Democratic primary challenge in a newly drawn district. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Members of Progressive Democrats of America, a national group, headquartered in Northampton Massachusetts, that promotes liberal causes, gathered Wednesday outside the Springfield office of Congressman Neal. Just as they’ve done during the noon hour on every third Wednesday of the month for the last 21 months. This day,with only a handful of activists available, the gathering was a victory celebration.
Tim Carpenter, national director of Progressive Democrats of America, explained that after nearly two years of demonstrations, leafleting and petitioning, and then finally a face to face meeting between Neal and several activists two weeks ago, the congressman agreed to co-sign five pieces of progressive legislation.
The bills endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America would establish universal healthcare coverage through several existing government programs, fund job training programs for the unemployed, create an emergency jobs program, and end funding for the war in Afghanistan. They said Neal has also agreed to support a constitutional amendment to thwart the US Supreme Court’s “ Citizens United” decision that said corporations have the same rights as people, at least when it comes to political speech.
Carpenter says his group has never had much complaint about Neal’s voting record during his two decades in congress.
While the grass roots lobbyists can claim some credit, Carpenter acknowledges other factors no doubt weighed on Neal.
Leo Maley , an organizer with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, was one of the activist who met with Neal to persuade him to support their causes.
A spokesman for Congressman Neal did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Neal’s two Democratic challengers, Andy Nuciforo and Bill Shein , have both accused the incumbent of being too conservative.