Steve Owens ran for state representative of Middlesex District 29, which encompasses parts of Watertown and Cambridge, and won the Democratic primary in September over his challengers, David Ciccarelli and Mark Sideris.
Since no Republicans are running in the general election, this means that Steve Owens has won the seat.
He won’t be sworn in until January, which will mark the start of his first two-year term. He was interviewed by the Watertown Splash over a Zoom call. (Transcript edited for length and clarity.)
Watertown Splash: What made you want to run for state representative?
STEVE OWENS: Well, it’s always been important to me to work to make a difference in our community, and this was an opportunity to not just help people get elected, which is what I’ve been doing for a long time here in Watertown, but to make sure that the issues that I care about, like climate change, transportation infrastructure, healthcare, and being able to afford to live in our town are addressed in a way that I cared about, so I thought, “Who better to run than me?” So yeah, it really came to the importance of helping people here and working on those issues that I care about.
What would you say your responsibilities are as state representative?
Well, as a state representative … my responsibilities are whatever the district entrusts upon me … My responsibility is to bring their issues to the state government, and some of the things that they thought were important were things like climate change and social justice, and those are things that I hope to address on Beacon Hill. And also, as a state representative, our job is to help constituents navigate the state bureaucracy, which can sometimes be confusing, especially for people who aren’t used to it. So, we’re really here to help people with what they need out of the state government.
You have a lot of goals for your term. Which ones would you prioritize?
Well, we’ll see. The current session, they voted to extend it. So we still don’t know what things are going to look like at the start of next session, we might finish up some of the work that they were doing at the end of July, and those things were climate change, police reform, transportation funding, and economic development. So we’ll see what’s left over at the beginning of next term, but I think that it seems like we are going to need to help people who are struggling thanks to the pandemic and the economic situation, so it’s really important to me to make sure that people who are having trouble finding food and affording rent or a place to live, that these people are taken care of, so we can bring the economy back on its feet, or adjust however the new normal is going to be after COVID.
With your many goals crammed into a two-year term, it sounds like you’ll have to be working from day one. What will you do to achieve some of your goals?
There are 160 members of the House and forty members of the Senate and we all kind of want to make sure that Massachusetts is a good place to live, so it’s not like I’ll be doing this all by myself. But at the same time, the Legislature tends to only focus on a couple of big issues at a time. So, I think that there are going to be issues that are going to be very important in the coming years, such as the economic situation. Climate change is something that we can really move forward on by getting rid of some of our carbon-based fuels for our economy. I think that’s something that will be a long-term goal, but we can set those benchmarks now and go forward. So I think addressing things like making sure the T runs smoothly and that we don’t abandon it. There’s a lot of talk about budget gaps in the MBTA because people aren’t riding it enough. But once people start getting back to commuting, we want them to be able to ride the T, or take the commuter rail or bus, they will be in their cars. And there are two things that happen when people use their cars: one is that there’s more traffic and people on the road, and two is that there will be more emissions and pollution coming from tailpipes.
You said that you wished that you had a Republican challenger to have an interesting competition and debate. What made you think that?
That was more of a joke. In a Democratic primary, we all kind of agree on most of the big issues. Maybe not on tactics or strategy, but at the end of the day, we all care about people, we care about things like the environment, and workers rights. So there’s no big difference. With a Republican challenger, the differences are very stark, and there are real differences that can be seen among the candidates.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you’re officially the representative?
I want to be put on the Transportation Committee in the House so I can work on transportation issues, which is my professional background, and I am hopeful to work on some climate legislation once we get the session going. And we’ll see how the situation with COVID has changed — it seems like every day, it changes. So we’ll see what the needs are for people in the district and in the state, I know that there are people who are still having trouble making their rent and are at risk of evictions coming up once the moratorium on evictions runs out. Hopefully, the federal government helps bring in some funds, programs or relief, because if not, then the state is going to have to take care of them at some point. Because they didn’t lose their job because of anything they did, it was because of our inability to help them in a way that protected them.”
The groups that endorsed you had interests spanning from environmentalism to issue advocacy to progressive groups. With so many expectations, do you feel pressure to make them feel like they made the right choice in voting for you?
I don’t know that it’s pressure, I have worked alongside a lot of those groups for the past few years. We work to get candidates elected here, so they know me, I know them, and they trusted me with their issues. So it wasn’t so much that they were putting a lot of pressure on me to do things in certain ways when things come up later, it was that we knew each other and we knew how we would react to things, and they were comfortable with having me in the legislature. And my opinions on those issues would be the same whether they endorsed me or not because I feel strongly about certain issues.. I’ve worked hard on campaigns where the SEIU, for example, worked with the same candidates. We’re all pointing in the same direction, which is one of the reasons they endorsed me.
This is probably too early to ask, but are you looking to run again when your term is over, and why?
At this point, it is a little early, but I intend to keep working at this for as long as the voters will have me. I think this is not necessarily a job that you can go into and accomplish everything, and two years is not that long to accomplish all of the goals. Right now, I intend to do this for as long as the voters will have me. But we’ve seen that even a month is a long time in the COVID era, so we’ll see what the world looks like in two years. Hopefully, it’ll be a bit better than it does now.
Would you look to use your experience to run for a higher office in the future?
I don’t intend to do that right now. I mean, I’m brand new at this job that I haven’t even started yet. So I’m not really thinking at all about any sort of higher office. I want to make sure that I can do the best job that I can as state representative. And whatever opportunities there are in the future, are in the future. So I guess I’ll stay for as long as the voters will have me.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to Watertown Middle School?
Well, I just want to thank you for the opportunity to talk to Watertown Middle School, and I hope you guys will get back in the school soon. I know it’s been tough for you folks, especially with remote learning. So, we’re working hard to help make sure that you guys are safe and we’ll get you back into the school and back with your friends as soon as it’s feasible to do so.
–Oct. 28, 2020–