Marcus’s MA04 Candidate Profile: Ben Sigel [OPINION]
Using “We the 4th” as a call to action, Ben Sigel is running to continue his father’s legacy of dedicated public service to the people of MA04.
A lifelong resident of Brookline, Sigel grew up in a multicultural household being of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent. Though his parents came from different ethnic backgrounds, they had a shared dedication toward working for the public good. His mother was a trained nurse who worked at Lahey Clinic and Mass General Hospital. His father worked for over 40 years in nonprofit and governmental positions, including working at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where he oversaw public housing in the MA04 cities of Taunton and Fall River.
Sigel’s first call to public service led him to work under Congressman Martin Frost as Deputy Finance Director for the West Coast for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). At the DCCC, Sigel worked toward helping congressional Democrats retake the majority in the House. When Rep. Frost became Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, he tapped Sigel to be his Task Force Coordinator. While there, Sigel helped craft a national Democratic agenda and mobilize elected Democrats in Congress to work toward a common goal of a more progressive America.
Afterward, Sigel earned his J.D. and M.B.A. from American University, during which time he also worked as a research assistant for Congressman Jamie Raskin. Sigel then began working at Boston-based law firm Mintz Levin as Director of Client and Community Relations – Special Counsel. In this position, Sigel was tasked with expanding the firm’s relationships with clients, prospective clients, and the greater community.
Sigel also volunteers indefatigably in community-building and outreach initiatives. He co-founded the Young Jewish Leaders Council under Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and the young leadership division of the American Jewish Committee. Sigel currently serves as the New England President of the Hispanic National Bar Association, where he was recognized as Regional President of the Year. Sigel has also been recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Attorneys of Color in Greater Boston and 100 Most Influential People of Color in Boston. These are just a few of the recognitions Sigel earned in service to myriad nonprofits and community organizations of which he has been a part.
Why did you decide to run for Congress?
“We are living in a time when our country and our communities are more divided than ever, and where disparities in access to opportunities continue to widen. The very fabric of our country requires fresh leadership and a renewed commitment to shared values. The reality is that to solve the important issues facing our country, we need to come together because we are stronger united than we are divided. I have the experience to bring our communities together to make real lasting change and ensure that the wheels of justice turn for all of us, not just a privileged few. I believe we need a leader who is a bridge builder, unifier and connector, someone who has advanced diversity, equity and inclusion and is not just talking about it, and someone who has stood in the shoes of the majority of the residents of the district and understands their perspectives. I am that leader.
Making real lasting change is never easy. Creating opportunities that lift up our neighbors is hard work. Through my non-profit advocacy and community work, and as a father of four children, I have witnessed how powerful a community can be when it is united. Now is the time for us to stand together and act. Now is the time to say no more to the hatred and bigotry that is dividing our country. That is the type of community where I want to live and raise my children. That is the type of community we all deserve. I am proud of the life that my wife and best friend for over 20 years, Gabrielle, and I have built. Together, we have raised four beautiful children in Brookline. Like most working families in the 4th District, we have faced financial burdens with significant childcare costs, student loan debt, and mortgage and car payments. However, I also recognize how lucky I am to have had mentors and advocates providing me with opportunities others were not afforded. I have dedicated my entire adult life to building, connecting and strengthening different communities, ensuring all of us have access to the same opportunities, and that no one is discriminated against based on who they are, who they love, how much money they earn, or where they live. I am running for Congress in the 4th Congressional District and would be proud to be the first Latino to ever represent Massachusetts in Congress.”
How has your campaign adapted to the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic?
“The theme for my campaign is 'We the 4th,' that we are all in this together, which has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the very beginning, we have emphasized the importance of coming together to strengthen our communities. Prior to COVID-19, I was the first candidate to visit all 34 cities and towns in the 4th District to meet people and learn how we can better support them. Since the pandemic started, the core of our work remains the same, but we have shifted the entire campaign digitally in order to inform, educate and support the community, especially those who are the most vulnerable. We created a COVID-19 Resource Page on our website www.bensigelforcongress.com to ensure we can provide people with important and helpful information during this difficult time. We also launched a virtual town hall series on Zoom and on Facebook, where we have hosted over 20 different medical professionals, government representatives, and civic and business leaders.”
What experiences and qualities do you have that separate yourself from other candidates in the race?
“I am a proud Jewish father, husband, lawyer, progressive community leader, activist, and Latino. In order to tackle the biggest issues facing our community and our country at a time when our country is more divided than ever, we need a leader who is a bridge builder, unifier and connector, someone who has advanced diversity, equity and inclusion and is not just talking about it, and someone who has stood in the shoes of the majority of the residents of the district and understands their perspectives. I am that leader.
I grew up in a hardworking middle-class family in Braintree, a family and town similar to a majority of the families and cities and towns in the district. As one of the few Jewish and Latino kids in my school, I experienced first-hand the effects of intolerance and prejudice. I also know what it is like to be weighed down by financial burdens growing up and to now have the burdens of childcare costs and student debt.
My experience as a community advocate and attorney started more than 20 years ago. I attended Middlebury College and Hebrew University in Jerusalem and received a Juris Doctorate and Masters in Business Administration from American University. After college, I worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Caucus in Washington, D.C. to help promote a national Democratic agenda.
For the past 16-plus years, I have worked as an attorney in a national law firm, becoming the law firm’s National Director of Client and Community Relations - Special Counsel and the President of the Hispanic National Bar Association for all of New England for the last two years. At Mintz Levin, my job was to solve business and personal problems and to break down silos, figure out what we were doing well with our clients, and what we were doing wrong and fixing those issues. In addition to working as a lawyer, I have also served on the boards and committees of over a dozen local, national and global nonprofit organizations whose missions aligned with my passion for community building, and whose communities I helped strengthen. In order to tackle the biggest issues facing our community and our country, I believe we need the three main sectors of our economy working together - government, private and non-profit. I have worked in all three sectors and understand how they might work together to move our country forward.”
What do you think is the most important issue facing the country today and how do we address it?
“The biggest issues facing our community and our country, include:
- Access to universal high-quality and affordable healthcare for everyone
- Social and economic justice, including climate change
- Equitable access to high-quality public education from early childhood to higher education, and including adult education
- Lack of economic opportunities to eliminate the inequality gap
- Comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform
- The rise of hatred, bigotry, and anti-Semitism in all forms against all people
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable our communities are. When even one person does not have health coverage it puts all of us in danger, so my number one priority would be to make sure that everyone has access to high-quality, affordable health care. I also want to make sure we have paid family and medical leave at the federal level, that there’s a federal moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures, and that we have a federal standard for collecting and providing data to understand how racial disparities affect treatment and testing, so that we can learn how to best address those challenges in our most vulnerable communities.
My other priorities are to: 1) address the rise in hatred and bigotry by teaching cultural competency to our children, investing more in cultural training for our teachers and law enforcement, and to pass tougher hate crimes legislation; 2) create a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 12+million immigrants in the country and give permanent status to those under temporary protected status (TPS) and youth immigrants known as DREAMers; 3) build a comprehensive education plan that starts with universal preschool, includes additional investment and resources in our K-12 education, but also includes significant investment in our vocational and technical schools, affordable and accessible, high-quality 4-year college and 2-year community college, and significant investment in adult education; and, 4) decrease the inequality gap by increasing the federal minimum wage to $15, increasing the income limit that receives the Earned Income Tax Credit, allowing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare, expanding Medicare from 65 years old to 50 years old, capping student debt at a very small percentage of income and allowing students to only borrow at low rates, and increasing Social Security benefits.”
What is one of your favorite features of MA04 District?
“I have strong connections throughout the district; my father worked in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for over 20 years, including auditing the public housing authorities in Taunton and Fall River. My cousins grew up in Sharon. My brother lives in Franklin now and I have cousins in Medfield and my kids have attended schools in Newton and Brookline. I also love the diversity in my district. We have over 725,000 hardworking people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Although there are many differences among us, at the end of the day we have more in common and are supportive of one another. Through these challenging times I have witnessed the resiliency and bravery of many of our community members, especially those on the frontlines like doctors, nurses, medical professionals, janitors, clean-up crews, grocery store clerks, pharmacists, and those in the delivery business. It is times like these that show strength in unity.”
To learn more about Sigel’s campaign, visit bensigelforcongress.com.
Marcus Ferro is an attorney practicing in New Bedford and a weekly contributor to The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM. Contact him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.