World / Politics

Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton jumps into crowded 2020 campaign

Bloomberg

Rep. Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran and leading rebel against House Democratic leadership, announced Monday he’s mounting a campaign for president, joining a crowd of 18 other Democrats who want to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I’m running because we have to beat Donald Trump,” Moulton said a video on Twitter. “And I want us to beat Donald Trump because I love this country.”

Moulton’s first task will be to distinguish himself from a collection of candidates with wider name recognition and established political organizations who have already been raising money, collecting endorsements and hiring staff in early primary and caucus states. Still more candidates are expected to join the race in the coming weeks, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Democratic field spans an ideological range from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who’s running as a middle-of-the-road pragmatist. Moulton calls himself a progressive Democrat and rarely breaks ranks with the party on key votes. He’s a member of the House New Democrat Coalition, a bloc of lawmakers who say they are dedicated to fiscally responsible, pro-growth policies.

Leading up to his announcement, Moulton unveiled proposals on voting rights and changes to the electoral system. He called for abolishing the 60-vote threshold required to pass legislation in the Senate and jettisoning the electoral college system used to elect presidents, proposals that several other Democratic presidential candidates have embraced.

“To change the country, we need to fundamentally change how government works: We need to abolish the filibuster and the electoral college,” Moulton wrote in a March 12 op-ed in the Washington Post.

Moulton, 40, gained some prominence in recent years for challenging Democratic leadership in the House, saying it’s time for a new generation to replace Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants, who’ve been in power for more than a decade.

In 2018 he led a group of rebel Democrats who withheld support for Pelosi’s speaker bid until she agreed to limit her own term. That push followed a midterm election in which Democrats won back control of the House, despite Republican attempts to tie the party’s candidates in swing districts to what they called Pelosi’s liberal agenda.

Moulton’s challenge to Pelosi was unsuccessful, and it was unpopular with some Democrats who argued that trying to topple the first woman to hold the speaker’s gavel sent the wrong message at a time when female voters and candidates were vital to the party’s success in the midterm elections.

Moulton, who worked to recruit military veterans as Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, is one of three presidential hopefuls who has served in the armed forces, along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Moulton joined the Marine Corps in late 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and shortly after graduating from Harvard. Moulton says he was an opponent of the Iraq war, but he went on to serve four tours in the conflict over five years. Moulton was in the first company of Marines to enter Baghdad, serving under Gen. James Mattis, who became Trump’s first defense secretary.

“A lot of Americans are feeling betrayed by Washington the same way we did in Iraq,” Moulton said in his campaign video. “Ask anyone who’s lost their job in a changing economy or a child to opioids or has to choose between heat and food in the winter. They’re feeling forgotten.”

After leaving the Marines, he earned degrees in business and government from Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government.

In 2014, Moulton challenged nine-term Rep. John Tierney in the Democratic primary for his Salem district — his first clash with Pelosi, who campaigned vigorously for the incumbent. Moulton won the primary with 51 percent of the vote, then beat his Republican general election opponent by 14 points.