Burlington Resident, 24, Challenges Rep. Ken Gordon in Primary

Timmy Sullivan ~ Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

A 24-year-old self-described “community organizer” is challenging state Rep. Kenneth Gordon for the Democratic nomination for state representative on the Sept. 6 primary election ballot.

Timmy Sullivan’s campaign focus is solely on state and national issues, especially energy sustainability and reduced in-state college tuition.

The district comprises all of Bedford and Burlington and a recent addition of a precinct in Lexington. Gordon is completing his fifth two-year term. There is no Republican on the primary ballot.

Sullivan lives in Burlington, where he grew up and graduated from high school. He said his mother was a  school nurse in his hometown; one of his brothers is a local businessman.

He is executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM). The organization, says its website, “unites students, families, alumni, professors, staff, and community members from our state universities, community colleges, and the UMass system to advocate for high-quality, debt-free public college.”

That issue is a pillar of his campaign. “I am a student debtor. I understand what it means to struggle to afford our public colleges,” Sullivan said in an interview. “I’m running because we need to make it possible to graduate from public college debt-free.”

It costs $30,000 to go to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,” he continued. “This is supposed to be a public college option. We have the chance to reverse this by making public college debt-free,” an issue that he said has “overwhelming favorability” in the state.

Sullivan also stated that “Massachusetts needs to immediately transition to 100 percent renewables,” to reduce energy costs and address the climate crisis.

He also said, “We need to tackle corruption in state politics” and impose term limits on legislative leadership. “We need legislators who are going to be accountable to voters.” Legislative committee votes should be public, he said.

Asked about issues specific to the district, Sullivan said, “These are fundamental cost-of-living issues, and the role of a state legislator is to address these statewide policies.” He added, “That does not rule out district service. We have to be working on issues for constituents. We are talking to people in the district at every opportunity. We have had a number of conversations and enjoyed a lot of support.”

“In 2018, I had the privilege to work for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, where I learned many skills in constituent services,” he wrote in an email. “I use this skillset to also be a strong representative for folks in our district.”

But he stressed that his focus is on college costs, energy, and “how leadership decisions are made. We need leaders who are going to prioritize these issues.”

“I have a track record of setting ambitious goals for climate justice,” said Sullivan in an interview, referencing his role as head of the UMass Amherst Student Government Association in pressuring the administration to accelerate the timeline for conversion to renewables. “I plan to be just as bold at the state level.”

At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Sullivan chaired the Student Government Association. He said he was “an undergraduate student organizer bringing people together on affordable higher education and renewable energy.”

“I am really proud of being elected twice, to be entrusted to enact a slate of policies to push the university to achieve 100 percent renewables,” he said. “We brought a really diverse group of people to the SGA,” citing “the experience of enormous positive change for the community.”

“I know that in a polarized political environment, it can be hard to pull everyone together,” Sullivan said. “But I have done that, and accomplished great things.”

Sullivan survived a recall attempt that carried over a few weeks beginning in the fall of 2019. He also was a passionate proponent as an undergraduate of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Asked if he considers Israel an apartheid country, Sullivan said he agrees with the “international consensus.”

Correction, 6/24/2022: Mr. Sullivan’s mother was a school nurse in his hometown, but is not currently working as a school nurse as the article originally noted. The Citizen regrets the error.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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