Rep. Jim McGovern (D)
Massachusetts 3rd District
Worcester is still pronounced with a particularly pungent Massachusetts accent making it sound as though it had no r’s. For more than 200 years, it has been one of the nation’s centers of tinkering, contriving, and inventing, even though it is one of the few active industrial cities not located on a river, lake, or seacoast. In the mid-19th century, the city won renown as the valentine-making capital of the United States for its production of lavish valentines and other greeting cards. Fifty years ago, Worcester’s biggest industries were wire-making, textiles, grinding wheels, and envelopes. It is where the birth control pill was invented and where Worcester native and Clark University professor Robert Goddard shot off experimental rockets before relieved locals saw him off to New Mexico.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the 1970s and 1980s, electronics and computer firms sprouted along Interstate 495—the circumferential highway 20 miles east of Worcester—just as they had earlier around Route 128, closer to Boston. The high-tech boom brought prosperity, labor shortages, new residents, and higher housing prices to central Massachusetts. Then, in the early 1990s, the minicomputer industry slumped, bringing a recession. But Worcester’s ingenious entrepreneurs and skilled labor force hustled, and local leaders set up a Biotechnology Research Institute to draw on the city’s nine colleges and the University of Massachusetts Medical School to steer the city back on course. Holy Cross College offered free tuition to students of local families earning less than $50,000 annually. Just as the city’s economy has changed, so has its face, with a 78% increase in Asians, 55% increase in blacks, and a 61% increase in Hispanics, mainly from Puerto Rico, in the 1990s. Overall, population declined 20% between 1950 and 1980 but increased 7% from 1980 to 2000 and an additional 5% since then, as the area attracted Hmong, Albanians, and Africans, many thousands of whom had fled the civil war in Liberia. The local cable television station airs Latino programming. That rebound contrasts with nearby Springfield and Hartford, and enabled Worcester to pass Providence as New England’s second-largest city, behind Boston. Since 2000, Worcester County has led the state in growth.
The 3rd Congressional District of Massachusetts has Worcester as its largest city but not its geographic center. A little more than half of its residents live in Worcester and a cluster of adjacent towns. The other population cluster is 60 miles away, in and around the old textile mill town of Fall River, east of Rhode Island. The two are connected by a string of towns that reaches almost to Buzzards Bay. In national elections since 1992, this district has been solidly Democratic. In recent gubernatorial elections, however, the 3rd has been mixed. Worcester and Fall River (only a portion of which is in the district) voted by significant margins for Democrat Shannon O’Brien in 2002. But the Interstate 495 corridor and the towns northeast of Rhode Island gave even larger margins to Republican Mitt Romney. In 2006, Democrat Deval Patrick won by almost 3-1 ratios in Worcester and Fall River and lost only a handful of towns here.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Nov. 20, 1959, Worcester .
Education: American U., B.A. 1981, M.P.A. 1984.
Family: Married (Lisa); 2 children.
Professional Career: Aide, U.S. Sen. George McGovern, 1977-80; Sr. aide, U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley, 1982–96.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Jim McGovern, a Democrat first elected in 1996. McGovern grew up in Worcester, where his parents owned a liquor store. He attended American University in Washington, and, while in graduate school, he worked in the office of then-Sen. George McGovern (no relation), a South Dakota Democrat. He ran McGovern’s 1984 campaign in the Massachusetts presidential primary, where the senator finished third with 21% of the vote. He also nominated McGovern at the Democratic convention in San Francisco. He went to work as an aide to Boston-area Rep. Joe Moakley’s office and became chief of staff just as Moakley ascended to chairman of the Rules Committee. McGovern got into the spotlight himself, leading a 1989 investigation of the murders of six Jesuits and two lay women in El Salvador, which led to a cutoff of U.S. aid to the country. In 1994, he ran for the House and lost in the Democratic primary, 38%-30%. In 1996, he ran again, this time with no primary opposition. In the general election, two-term Republican Rep. Peter Blute stressed his “independence” from the conservative Republican leadership in the House and attacked McGovern for liberal stands on abortion rights and Cuba. McGovern ran a humorous spot that asked, ‘‘If you wouldn’t vote for Newt, why would you ever vote for Blute?’’ At age 36, McGovern won, 53%-45%.
|Jim McGovern (D)||227,619||(98%)||($848,694)|
|Jim McGovern (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (71%), 2002 (100%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (57%), 1996 (53%)
With deft maneuvers reflecting his Capitol Hill experience, McGovern has positioned himself to become a power broker in the Democratic majority. In 2001, the dying Moakley personally asked Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt to help McGovern get a seat on Rules, which schedules most legislation for the House floor. As it turned out, the next seat went to Florida’s Alcee Hastings, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, but McGovern got a commitment for the next available Democratic seat, with seniority over Hastings. On Rules, he immediately showed familiarity with House procedures. As the No. 2 Democrat and in the majority for the first time, he said he gladly moved from “being a pain in the ass [in the minority] to more of an advocate for respect, inclusion, and fairness.” With the roles reversed, he showed a sharp partisan edge as he embraced parliamentary maneuvers that led to cries of outrage from House Republicans. McGovern conceded, “We’re not as open as I’d like,” and said that Democratic leaders should be more willing to lose a few votes for the sake of inclusion. He also took a seat on the Budget Committee. With his considerable leverage, he became a party leader on strategizing Iraq war policy, though with little immediate success. In February 2007, he sponsored a bill to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in six months. The House defeated it in May on a surprisingly close 255-171 vote. In October 2007, he along with Democrats David Obey of Wisconsin and John Murtha of Pennsylvania proposed a war surtax, but Democratic leaders rejected it. In June 2008, McGovern called for the United Nations to replace U.S. forces in Iraq. The House Judiciary Committee in July 2008 approved his bill to prevent the summary deportation of foreign spouses of deceased U.S. citizens.
McGovern has a solid liberal voting record. He is a member of the Cuba Working Group, which has called for easing sanctions against the Castro regime. He has won bipartisan House votes to lift the travel ban to the island. He contends that the U.S. embargo has not achieved its goal of improving human rights and the economic situation in Cuba, and that only a change in policy, not continued sanctions, will improve living conditions and foment democratic reforms there. He also worked to release U.S. hostages held by the Colombian militant group FARC months before their July 2008 liberation in a government-led effort. Citing human rights violations, he has been a leading opponent of the U.S. free trade deal with Colombia. As the co-chair of the Human Rights Caucus, he called for a U.S. boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. McGovern chairs the Congressional Hunger Center, and in 2007 he participated in a one-week “food stamp challenge” in which he spent no more than $21 on food. He has pushed for more spending on international nutrition and for less support of biofuels, which he says have driven up food costs.
On issues affecting his district, McGovern led opposition to a proposed liquefied natural gas plant on the Taunton River. The Coast Guard ruled that the river was not safe for LNG tankers and blocked construction. In December 2007, he got $750,000 to redevelop the Blackstone Canal between Worcester and Providence. Although Republicans held this seat not long ago, they have given up on it. McGovern was unopposed in four of the past five congressional elections.