Green touts business success in 3rd District race (VIDEO)
LOWELL -- The lone Republican in a 3rd Congressional District race featuring 13 Democrats, many of Rick Green's views are driven by a common ideology within his party: reducing the scope of the federal government.
Green returned to that theme several times over the course of an interview Thursday with The Sun's editorial board, suggesting that regulation of firearms be handled almost entirely at the state level and arguing that political communication groups should not be required to disclose their donors.
Although Green, a Pepperell resident, at times did not provide specific answers on policy questions, he stressed his background in business as a key qualification -- 1A Auto, the Westford-based auto-parts business he co-founded, now employs more than 450 people across the region -- and made broad promises to improve the district's infrastructure if elected.
"My business has been successful because I empower my customers," Green said. "That's what I think Congress should do: it needs to empower the people. There's no problems the American people can't solve. Sometimes, government just gets in the way."
An obvious contrast in tone emerged between Green and the field's many Democrats: as a member of the political party currently in power, he is less combative than some of his prospective opponents. Green said he believes national politics have become "a spectator sport" that detracts from success. He almost never mentioned President Donald Trump during his interview with The Sun. When asked, said he would rate the president's policies as an 8 out of 10 and his communication as a 2 out of 10.
"The job of representative is to represent the will of the people and to be the closest level of federal government to the folks," Green said. "If the president proposes something that I think is good for the people of the 3rd District, I will be his biggest champion, and if he proposes something that I think goes against the interests of the people of the 3rd District, I will call him out."
One of Green's main pitches, one he has made several times on the campaign trail, is that he would secure improvements to the district's infrastructure, particularly repairs of the Rourke Bridge in Lowell and the Route 2 rotary in Concord. He said he could force those projects through, even when multiple federal and state agencies need to be involved.
"Congressman Green is going to be sitting in their office every Monday morning at 9 o'clock and say, 'Look guys, we're getting this done,'" Green said. "We're all going to get in the same room, call a meeting, figure out what federal approvals we need to make this happen."
Another of Green's central arguments is that his business experience gives him unique perspective on the economy, which will be one of the central topics on voters' minds. Green founded 1A Auto in a garage with his brother around 2000. Since then, the company, which sells aftermarket automotive parts to consumers nationwide, has grown to include offices in Westford and Littleton.
"When I tell you I know what it takes to get the economic engine of the 3rd District running, it's because I've done it," he said.
As manager of a business with hundreds of employees, Green said he has first-hand experience with changes in legislation around health care and taxes. He said his staff's health care costs increased in the wake of the Affordable Care Act and that the new tax law brought benefits to the company.
On health care, Green said he believes the industry should implement a price mechanism similar to other industries. He likened the process of finding care to repairing a car and suggested mandating doctors to provide lists of services and costs as a way to foster competition.
"That creates the market and that controls costs," he said. "We've got to give more choices to consumers."
Green declined to say whether he would have voted with Republicans last year when the House passed a bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, saying he had not read the bill and did not want to comment on it. That bill, an earlier version of which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would have led to 24 million more Americans going uninsured, did not go into effect after the Senate failed to pass its own legislation.
He also said his employees have received increases to their take-home pay of about 4 percent after Republicans pushed through a new tax bill last year. 1A Auto gave all of its employees a $250 bonus following passage of the bill, although Green said much of the company's savings will eventually go into lowering prices rather than increasing pay.
On the campaign trail, Green said, the issue most frequently raised by voters is the opioid epidemic. He described Lawrence as "the hub" of fentanyl trafficking in New England and said, if elected, he would appoint a full-time staffer to focus on the opioid crisis. When pressed for additional suggestions, Green said he believes the federal government should focus on interdiction to prevent the spread of illegal synthetic opioids and should help those with addiction work through comprehensive treatment programs that offer support at every step.
Green said he believes undocumented immigrants who have no criminal history should be given a pathway to legal residency, although he said the first priority would be to ensure "rule of law" is being followed. He would have agreed to a deal Trump proposed months ago, approving a wall along the southern border to extend legal protection to young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.
"Here you have a chance for both sides to work together," Green said. "Both sides are getting a lot of what they want, but not everything. They're having to give up a little bit."
Although Green said the comparatively strict gun laws in Massachusetts work well for our demographics, he does not believe the federal government should do much more to address gun violence. Instead, he said, decisions on regulating assault weapons, for example, should be handled at the state level.
"By and large, I think the federal government is where it should be and I would leave it by and large to the states," he said.
In the early days of the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, a handful of other Republicans expressed interest before dropping out and backing Green, leaving him the almost-certain Republican nominee. He must now wait five months until the primary election to learn who his Democratic opponent will be.
Original story byChris Lisinski, LOWELL SUN