As the temperatures have dove into the teens over the past weeks, Chelsea’s Josh Monahan has found himself at home in the cold.
That’s because he’s been tirelessly pounding the pavement, beating back the cold weather, to get his message and his name to the voters in the quick campaign for state rep in the 16th Suffolk District (Reinstein’s former seat).
Monahan, 29, knows his way around the State House, having worked in and around the building for two years at the Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC). He also knows his way around Chelsea and Revere, having grown up on the City Line in Prattville and having graduated from Chelsea High School (CHS).
He knows a little bit about government, academics and society as well, living the first years of his life in the Burma Road housing projects while going to Chelsea Public Schools and eventually earning a scholarship to Harvard University and then landing a job with the City of Chelsea’s Planning Department (he lists City Manager Jay Ash as his mentor).
Now, he and his family live on Cook Avenue in Prattville and Monahan just recently passed the Bar Exam – earning his law degree from Suffolk University and becoming a practicing attorney.
So, with all that behind him, when the seat opened up, Monahan said he was ready to venture into politics for the first time.
“The most important thing for me at this point in this short campaign is getting out and making sure people in Chelsea, Revere and Saugus know me,” he said. “I definitely have been using social media and the Internet, but at the same time I’m trying to spend less time on social media. This is going to be about getting out and meeting people. I’m making sure to get out there and talk to people so they know I’m not just this afterthought candidate…Nothing has been handed to me in life. I knew I was a long shot, but I’m out to prove to people that I’m worth their vote.”
Monahan’s story is one that most in the district can easily warm up to, if not that they lived it themselves, most voters can appreciate the bootstraps mentality that Monahan brings to the table.
Monahan’s story starts in Chelsea Public Housing and ends at Harvard and Suffolk University Law School. He’s hoping a new chapter in that story will include a stop in the State House.
“I’m a local guy born and raised in Chelsea,” he said. “I grew up in the Burma Road projects in Chelsea. My parents worked very hard to get us out of the projects and into our own home…I saw them struggle. Seeing how hard they worked to get us a home on Cook Avenue motivated me to do good in school. Going through Chelsea Public Schools, there were a lot of good teachers and guidance counselors. I’m proud of the fact that I could go to Harvard from Chelsea High. The variety of experiences in that I’ve brought with me along the way. When the seat opened up, I thought about it and decided I wanted to be an advocate for others in my community and an advocate for everyone in the district.”
And those experiences and the energy he has brought to the race is showing rewards. He said he is getting a great response, and rather than having any major fund-raising events, he has planned to have small meet-and-greets and even rolled out a plan to be available at City Halls and Town Halls to meet people who might be interested in his campaign.
He said he will bring the experience of implementing and making laws to the job, having worked at MAPC and carried out lots of legislation.
“Even some of the most well-meaning pieces of legislation don’t pan out the way they are planned because they haven’t seen how things pan out at the local level,” he said.
One thing he hopes to concentrate on is crime and youth violence, having been an administrator of the Shannon Youth Grant in Chelsea. He said he sees lots of crime and a major drug problem in the district that he would work on if elected.
“My family home in Prattville was broken into not too long ago,” he said. “That’s frustrating. I know the police are doing what they can, but I don’t think we’re doing enough to make sure there are drug diversion programs so it’s not a rotating door for the people who are causing crime, who are arrested and are back on the street quickly. We have to have a smart allocation of resources in this area. I think I know how that can be done.”
He added that he has seen families all through the district struggle with relatives in the throws of drug addiction, and he will advocate for them to get the help and resources they need.
“If you’re a person touched by this, and I know many who are, then you know the uphill battle it is to find and access these resources,” he said.
Another issue he is interested in is having a more direct and open dialog with Wheelabrator (Resco) in Saugus – noting that the trash burning facility impacts the entire district and any talk of expanding it should be carefully thought out.
“More can be done to have an open dialogue,” he said.
Naturally, he also listed the potential casino at Suffolk Downs as a major issue for the district. He said he is pro-casino, but has concerns about how it is implemented and who will hold the casino accountable for its promises.
“I think it will be a great economic benefit to the area,” he said. “I”m all for bringing jobs to the area. Jobs are good; good jobs are better. There is a great potential for short-term construction jobs too. However, I don’t want our communities to be the casino communities. If it does go in Revere, I don’t want Revere to be known as the casino city. It’s hosted in the City, but it’s not Mohegan Sun Revere. Most people can agree to that. Revere, Chelsea and Saugus have to be and are more than casino cities.”
He said he would be a candidate to hold the casino to its promises, despite any pressure that might arise.
“Once it comes to delivering the jobs promised, who is going to be in the community making sure that it happens?” he asked. “We need to make sure we’re not just hoping for these jobs and transportation projects to come, but making sure they do. I’m pro-casino, but pro-accountability.”
Monahan will be on the ballot in the 16th District as part of the three-person Democratic primary election on March 4. On Monday, he received the endorsement of Chelsea Council President Matt Frank.
“The campaign is really peaking at just the right time for me,” he said. “It’s exciting.”