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Grad Wins Local Seat

Grad Wins Local SeatIna local election that attracted national attention, 26-year-oldCarl Sciortino narrowly unseated a 16-year incumbent to becomea Massachusetts state representative.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.20.04] The campaign signs supporting CarlSciortino still remain in many of the yards in the Medfordand Somerville neighborhoods that make up Massachusetts’34th Middlesex District. The election ended more than a week ago,but the Tufts graduate’s job is just beginning. After beatinga 16-year incumbent to win a seat in the state’s House ofRepresentatives by a mere 117 votes, Sciortino has found himselfin the spotlight as he prepares for his first term as a locallegislator.

"Sciortinobeat Ciampa," one supporter screamed at a post-election bashas the election results came in. "Can you believe it?"
The news, which typically interests just the local press, appearedin papers around the country.

“Sciortino,a 26-year-old openly gay political newcomer, edged out VincentCiampa,” reported a newspaper in Houston, Texas –one of several national media groups to report on the race. “Itwas a victory for the gay lobby, which embarked on a campaignto unseat several Democratic lawmakers, including Ciampa, whovoted for a bid to ban gay marriage.”

Labeled asone of several “critical” races in the battle overgay marriage in Massachusetts, the Sciortino-Ciampa battle mayhave been the most closely watched because it pitted a 16-yearpolitical veteran against a young, first-time candidate.

But the Tuftsgraduate proved to be a very effective campaigner as he took hisplatform door to door. As his standard three-minute pitch showed,Sciortino was anything but a one-issue candidate.

“Askhim the reasons for his fledgling run for political office, andhe ticks off a list of standard concerns — from municipaland school aid, health care, and human services to corporate welfare,”reported the Boston Phoenix. “Topping his platform,he says, is the need to improve funding for Somerville and Medfordpublic schools — which he believes his opponent has failedto do.”

Before heever dreamed of unseating Ciampa, Sciortino simply wanted the16-year representative to consider changing some of his positionson the issues. He lobbied him to support campaign finance reform,funding for social services programs and eventually gay marriage,but Ciampa stood firm.

"Gaymarriage," Sciortino told the Phoenix, "wasreally the last straw for me. I thought, ‘This districtdeserves an alternative. It deserves better.’"

And so hiscampaign was born.

For manyresidents, Sciortino was an attractive alternative to the statusquo.

“I’mall for your platform,” one local neighbor told him. “I’mso sick of these incumbent politicians.” Another added,“Vinnie has been here too long! If you can boot him out,I say go for it.”

His interestin local issues – from education to public safety –appeared to resonate throughout the community. But it was hisfirm position in favor of gay marriage that generated the mostattention.

“SinceSciortino announced his candidacy back in March, gay-marriagesupporters have rallied behind him,” reported the Phoenixin a profile of the Tufts graduate’s campaign. “Supportersliving in the district have also flocked to his campaign, callingpotential voters, stuffing envelopes and spreading the word aboutthe young, energetic candidate. Even folks from outside the district,from places such as Newton, Boston and Cambridge, have done theirbest to lend Sciortino a hand.”

Accordingto the newspaper, it was easy to see why he was so popular.

“The26-year-old health-care manager oversees HIV/AIDS programs atFenway Community Health Center,” reported the Phoenix.“A native of Milford, Connecticut, he moved to Somervillein 1996 to attend Tufts University, where he studied biology.Over the past eight years, he has plunged into political activism,founding the Progressive Democrats of Somerville and heading upOutSomerville, the city’s gay-rights group. As far as first-timecandidates go, Sciortino seems a dream: he is informed, eagerto work, and idealistic about government.”

Now he hasan opportunity to turn that idealism into action.

"Inow have the privilege and honor of serving all the families inSomerville and Medford," Sciortino told supporters in hisacceptance speech – adding that he was both “humbled”and "overwhelmed" by their support. "And I willmake sure that everyone’s rights are defended and protectedin my district."


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