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“We've been playing it much too safe for a state that is as rich in resources as we are.”

Massachusetts state Rep. Tami Gouveia launches bid for lieutenant governor

By Nik DeCosta-Klipa

While political observers in Massachusetts wait for key individuals to declare their intentions in the 2022 race for governor, one Democratic state representative is launching her bid for the No. 2 job.

Rep. Tami Gouveia, a progressive, second-term lawmaker from Acton, is announcing her campaign Monday to be the next lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, calling for a more ambitious approach and robust social safety net as the state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been playing it much too safe for a state that is as rich in resources as we are, that is as smart and as educated as we are, and there’s opportunities for us to address some of the policies that have left people behind,” Gouveia told Boston.com in an interview, pointing to worsening economic and racial inequalities in the state.

“We need leadership, and I don’t see that coming out of the corner office right now,” she added.

A Lowell native, Gouveia was elected to represent the 14th Middlesex District in the State House in 2018, following a 25-year career as a social worker focused on protecting children from exposure to environmental toxins and preventing substance abuse.

Following the election of former president Donald Trump, she founded the Massachusetts chapter of the Women’s March before running for state representative while working on her doctorate in public health, which the 46-year-old completed during the pandemic.

Gouveia’s policy priorities include a bundle of disruptive progressive agenda items that haven’t garnered serious consideration under Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and moderate Democratic leaders in the State House — from establishing a single-payer health care system to universal pre-K to debt-free higher education, including tuition-less community college.

And she’s been particularly critical of the Baker administration during the COVID-19 pandemic for not working more collaboratively with local public health and school leaders.

“One thing I hear over and over again is just how kicked in the teeth so many of them feel and how underutilized they have been through the pandemic,” Gouveia said, adding that many feel “completely ignored” by Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

Even after less than two-and-a-half years as a state representative, Gouveia says she did give thought to a gubernatorial campaign, but ultimately decided the lieutenant governor position was more suited to her experience convening people, as a “bridge” between municipalities and the administration.

“I would make sure that our municipalities — regardless of what role they fulfill — feel supported and bolstered in their roles,” Gouveia said. “They know their communities best.”

While Massachusetts now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, Gouveia remains critical of the Baker administration’s handling of the rollout, particularly the signup website’s lack of accessibility for elderly residents early on, as well as persistent racial disparities among residents who have gotten their shots.

“If you make a comparison between the predominantly white wealthy suburbs and the gateway cities, the percentage of vaccination rates is abysmal,” Gouveia said…