Bielat Faces Another Tough Race For 4th District Seat

Sean Bielat at Rox Diner in Newton. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sean Bielat at Rox Diner in Newton. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

BOSTON — With new district lines and no incumbent, a particularly competitive race is heating up in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District.

Two candidates are vying for the Republican nomination: Sean Bielat, who ran against Rep. Barney Frank in 2010 and lost, and Brookline psychiatrist Elizabeth Childs.

WBUR’s Morning Edition host Bob Oakes spoke with Bielat last week and asked him why he wanted to run again.

Sean Bielat: Three issues in particular that drive my campaign: the first is job and economic growth; the second is fiscal responsibility; and the third is a general vision of what the federal government should do and what it shouldn’t do.

Bob Oakes: What do you say to Republicans who may have been put out by the fact that, after you lost to Frank in the last election, you left the state and then decided to come back to Massachusetts?

It was the beginning of my wife’s third trimester and we had had some issues the first time around and we decided for family reasons to go and be near people.

And what made you decide to come back then?

We were always planning to. It was always temporary thing. You know, we didn’t give up our Massachusetts residency. It’s strange to me that people would make the argument that since I was gone for three months, that it’s somehow walking away from the 4th. And the other thing is, obviously, there’s a big name candidate who moved in the week before the election, and I haven’t heard as much discussion about that as I have about my leaving the state for a couple months for family reasons.

You’re talking about Joe Kennedy III, the leading Democrat. We’ll get to him in a few minutes.

I do want to ask you another question before we get to issues though. As I understand it, and I’ve actually seen some paperwork on it, as late as 2005, you were registered as a Democrat in upstate New York. Why were you a Democrat and why the switch to the Republican party?

Well, like a lot of people here in Massachusetts, I grew up that way. What happened was, I was always a fiscal conservative. And when I got to Harvard, after I left the Marine Corps, it was very much focused on, sort of, the left end of spectrum and I found myself playing devils advocate a lot just because nobody was taking that point of view. And, over time, I found the arguments more convincing and moved further to the right and ultimately thought the Republican party represented my views more closely.

Lets talk about some issues. How do you hope the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the challenge to the national health care overhaul? What would you like to see the court do?

I believe that the mandate to purchase insurance is not constitutional.

Do you hope that the law is struck down completely or do you just want the individual mandate in the law struck down?

I think I’d like to see it struck down completely. I think that there are a lot of troubling aspects of the law. There’s enough problems with the legislation that we ought to start from scratch again.

To be replaced by what then?

I think the more you can return to basic economic forces, and then where you need to add on top of that. We need a social safety net, obviously. The question is how we provide that and the question is what the repercussions are if we extend it too widely.

If the national law is struck down, would you want Massachusetts to reconsider the state health law [that is] viewed as, of course, the blueprint for the national plan now under dispute?

No, I agree with the argument that states should be able to come up with the solutions that are best for states.

A lot of finger pointing in Washington right now on the economy — over who’s responsible for the state of the economy and what should be done about it. What do you think Congress should do to spur it forward?

There’s two things. The first is enabling individuals and companies to use their own money, to allocate capital according to their own needs. A family is always going to know better whether they need to pay down a credit card or a student loan or buy a new car.

But the second part of a solution, I think, is regarding regulation. The first thing would be to assess what regulations are in the pipeline and how they’re likely to affect business and then to be very clear when they go into effect so that people can predict. Even if something bad is coming, if you know it’s coming, you know the timing of it, you can prepare for that.

But beyond clarity in regulations, a lot of businesses are holding back simply because they don’t know where the economy itself is going, so how do you provide that certainty?

What you can do is provide clarity among the things that are understood and controllable.

Let’s go to foreign policy a little bit here if we can. As a Marine reservist and a major, I want to ask how quickly you think the U.S. should get out of Afghanistan?

The answer to that really depends on what it is we think we’re trying to accomplish there, and it’s not clear to me that we have a good answer.

I think the answer isn’t as straightforward as setting a date by which we withdraw, because I think you create more potential for instability and what we’ve achieved there sort of slips away. But I do think you can go back to an earlier approach, which is a primarily a small unit, special operations-driven presence.

It sounds like you could support a drawdown.

A drawdown, absolutely. I could not support a date-certain withdrawal. I think that creates instability.

How should the White House handle the threat or at least the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program?

I don’t think we can take preemptive action off the table. I think we can work more closely with Israel. And I don’t think we’re going to arrive at a good solution without the threat of military intervention.

Let me ask about money. What do you figure it will take to knock out the heir of Camelot, Joe Kennedy III? Is he beatable?

He’s absolutely. I can absolutely win this election. From everything I know, I think that I’m going to be out-raised, but I’m not sure that that is going to be decisive. I have concerns as a citizen, as a candidate obviously, that because somebody has a certain name that they should be given opportunities that aren’t necessarily earned.

Are you worried then that Joe Kennedy’s been given a pass?

Yes, quite frankly I do think he’s been given a pass. There is a lack of examination by the media and by many people who are opening these doors of what are the basic qualifications of the candidate. Is this person bringing something to that table that would justify all this if the name wasn’t there?

But you still think if you’re both the nominees, you can beat him?



Because in this state, people have made their decisions largely around this Kennedy name. The media, I think is very interested in it because it’s an interesting story. But I think for voters it’s a lot less important.

WBUR’s interview with Elizabeth Childs will run Tuesday, April 10. 

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  • Anonymous

    Typical simplistic Republican economic views. 

    • maryann

      You are right, because giving the government all the money and letting them decide how to spend it is complicated…wow

      • Anthony

        Sarcastic comments do not propel political dialogue forward.  Focus instead on finding common ground.  You have enough of an interest in participating in the conversation, make it meaningful.  Otherwise, you’ll be ignored or worse create an affective conflict that gets us all nowhere.

        • Golden

          I thought it was a befitting reply to a “typical simplistic” dismissive comment which added absolutely nothing of value to discussion in the first place. 

          • Anonymous

            How were any of the generalities he offered worthy of more specific criticism?  Lower taxes, repeal health care reform, and reduce regulations are typical simplistic Republican economic views.  He didn’t have a plan to replace health care reform after repealing it.  He repeated the talking point that families know how to spend their money better than government.  He wasn’t exactly profund.

          • Seriously?

            I don’t think you’ll ever hear ANY candidate give highly detailed answers in this type of interview because of editing. It’s not that the interviewers are trying to distort anything but if you have a 3 minute answer and need to use only 10 seconds of it in order to fit the radio piece, you’ll take the portion that’s easiest to digest, i.e., the bit that sounds like something you’ve heard before.

            We all inadvertently do the same thing when we process information. For example, you said that one of his “typical simplistic” views was that he wants to “reduce regulations” but if you re-read what he actually said you’ll see that Sean didn’t talk about reducing regulations, he talked about making its implementation more predictable. That’s not a standard talking point for Republicans or Democrats, even though it could work for either party.

            I’ve heard Sean speak before and I don’t agree with all of it but I can say that he’s not simplistic when you listen to his views in full.

            [Side point: just because something's simple or said frequently doesn't make it wrong--you probably, like most people, would agree that you know how to spend your money better than the government, no?] 

  • Tomas

    That Joe Kennedy served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic is a big plus for me.

  • Anthony

    Bielat took the bait on the Kennedy question.  He writes off Joe Kennedy III’s qualifications, agreeing that he’s been given a “pass.”  Independent of his name, Kennedy’s credentials are solid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Kennedy_III.  If he gets any sort of “pass” it’s not because his qualifications are being overlooked, it’s because the Kennedy’s have established a political brand.  We know what we’re getting when we elect a Kennedy.  What do we know about electing a Bielat???

    • Here’s what we know…

      If you want to know Sean’s background, you could start here: http://www.seanforcongress.com/

      What you get is a Marine with degrees from Georgetown, Harvard, and Wharton, who has, among other things, led a $100 million high-tech product line, and worked at one of the top management consulting firms in the world (McKinsey & Company). Plus, unlike Kennedy, he talks about issues on his web site… 

      If that’s not enough, unlike Kennedy, there’s a huge public record of interviews, articles, and You Tube videos that show who he is and why he’s running. Agree with him or disagree with him, it’s a whole lot easier to know who Sean is than to know who Joe Kennedy is (unless you think knowing a last name is enough).

    • Anonymous

      A Non-socialist.

  • BostonNative

    “Because in this state, people have made their decisions largely around this Kennedy name.”

    Excuse me? And what would a New Yorker who moved to MA via PA last year know about how the “people in this state” have made their decisions?

    Get over yourself.

    • Seriously?

      So are you saying that people in MA haven’t already made up their minds one way or another about the Kennedy name? I agree with Sean that most people who care about the Kennedy name have already decided whether or not they see it as a positive or negative.

      Also, are you really saying in this day and age that only life long residents of MA should be able to run for office? Looking at Kennedy’s resume, I see that he attended college in CA and lived in the Dominican Republic for a few years…I wonder who’s lived in MA for more time in the past ten years, Sean or Joe? My guess is Sean but I don’t think it matters too much either way.

  • lodger

    Please ask Mr Bielat and other Republican candidates to elaborate on their plan for a healthcare fix.  Mr Bielat’s ideologically predictable copout of “return to basic economic forces” offers no solution.   The magical republican market-based solution *was* a mandate, and now they’re all running away from it, since Obama ran with their idea. 

    So if not Obama’s approach, what would they do? I am an independent voter residing in the 4th district. 

    • Valathome

      I’m not sure what you mean that “magical republican market based solution *was* a mandate.”  If you are referring to the current MA mandatory health plan, it is not exactly market – based, and it is definitely not a Republican idea … this was Kennedy’s dream legislation, and on a federal level, it was Hillary Clinton’s baby. 

      I’m not sure why you don’t believe that allowing insurance companies to compete through out ALL states along with tort reform isn’t a viable alternative to decrease the premiums significantly.

      Neither Obamacare nor its MA version, has done anything to decrease premiums, in fact, they have been rising at a faster pace than ever before.

      • lodger

        Thank you for your response. You’re right, Obama/Romneycare has not decreased premiums, all it has done has forced more people to buy into an essentially broken system. 

        The major impediment to ‘allowing insurance companies to compete’ is insurance companies themselves. They want to continue their near monopoly status in most states, and enjoy an exemption from federal antitrust laws.
        They are the ones who ensured that a public option was ‘off the table’. 

        Mr Bielat wants to scrap the Obamacare bill, would that include the provisions that enable young adults to remain on the parents’ policy until age 26, and the preexisting condition fixes, as well as the provision that has cracked down on Medicare fraud?

        The ‘free market’ approach might work for buying and selling autos and shoes, but healthcare is a completely different context.  I’ve heard no solutions on the republican side. The goal seems to be to just boot Obama at any cost.  

  • X-Ray

    Any Republican will have a hard time getting elected from Massachusetts to
    the House of Representatives. Democrats have an exclusive hold there.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatChristyChic Christy Waters

    A vote for Kennedy is a vote for more big govt “solutions”, and when we’re $15 trillion in the hole, we need that like we need a hole in the head. We need to start changing our mindset about who represents us in DC, or we will cease to exist as a free country. I support “regular folk” like Sean Bielat. The US doesn’t need a royal family anyway.

  • Guest

    Bielat has everything it takes on paper to hold this office but he has much more, he actually wants to fix things and make this a better state.  I think people are finally waking up to the fact that we want well qualified regular people in office, not career politicians and especially not politicians who are following in family tradition like Kennedy.  If we had more people like Bielat in office right now, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.  Bielat gave Barney Frank a run for his money and I believe he can beat Kennedy. 

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