Eric Lesser

Eric Philip Lesser (born February 27, 1985) is an American politician serving in the Massachusetts State Senate. Before representing his hometown of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and neighboring communities in the Greater-Springfield area, he worked as a White House aide during the Obama administration. Lesser is one of the originators of the White House Passover Seder.

Eric Lesser
Eric Lesser Solo Photograph.jpg
Member of the Massachusetts Senate
from the First Hampden and Hampshire district
Assumed office
January 7, 2015[1]
Preceded byGale D. Candaras
Personal details
Born (1985-02-27) February 27, 1985 (age 35)
Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Alison Silber
ResidenceLongmeadow, Massachusetts
EducationLongmeadow High School
Harvard College
Harvard Law School
OccupationPolitician
Websitewww.senatorlesser.com

Early life, family and educationEdit

Lesser grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and graduated from Longmeadow High School. Known as an advocate for public schools, Lesser worked with students, parents, and teachers to increase school funding.[2] He also worked for Congressman Richard Neal and Senator Ted Kennedy.[3] Lesser was an active member of Sinai Temple, coordinating volunteer activities for high school students, and an active volunteer with the Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee.[4]

Lesser's father, Martin, is a family doctor in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and a member of the Massachusetts National Guard. In 2010, he served a tour of duty in Iraq.[5] Lesser's mother, Joan, is a social worker in Holyoke.[6][7]

After high school, Lesser received his bachelor's degree in government from Harvard College.[8] While in college, Lesser worked on Deval Patrick's gubernatorial campaign.  He led the Harvard College Democrats[9] and a policy group on Congressional Redistricting Reform. At Harvard University's Institute of Politics, he started a public policy research program.[10]

While a student at Harvard Law School, Lesser was named one of the "most impressive Harvard Law students" by Business Insider.[11] He is also a member of the Massachusetts Bar.

Early political careerEdit

Obama presidential campaignEdit

After college, Lesser joined Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, helping stage events in New Hampshire.[8] After the primary, Lesser was tapped to be the campaign's "Ground Logistics Coordinator," traveling with the candidate to 47 states and six countries – over 200,000 miles in total.[12][13] Commenting on his logistical prowess, President Obama said "Eric Lesser may be running a Fortune 500 company one day," adding "We are lucky to have such a smart and committed young man as part of our team."[3] During a campaign stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Lesser organized an impromptu Passover Seder. At the Passover Seder, then-Senator Obama promised, "Next year in the White House."[4][14]

White House aideEdit

After the campaign, David Axelrod tapped Lesser to serve as his Special Assistant, where he shared a wall with the Oval Office.[8][15][16] Lesser was described as a "wunderkind"[17] and a "West Wing mascot" during his time at the White House.[18] Lesser also worked as the Director of Strategic Planning at the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House unit charged with offering the President objective economic advice.[19][20]

White House SederEdit

Lesser was a chief organizer[21] of an annual White House Passover Seder attended by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters[22][23][24] – the first presidential Seder in American history.[25] The Seder is a reunion of the original group who met in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the 2008 campaign.[26][27] Lesser brought handmade shmurah matzah from the Chabad-Lubavitch center in Springfield, MA.[28] Over the years the Seder has grown in prominence. President Obama has discussed the Seder with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,[29] and Sara Netanyahu gave the President a silver Seder plate to use in subsequent White House Seders.[30] President Obama has spoken of the Seder in a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee[31] and in an address before the Israeli people.[32]

Massachusetts SenateEdit

ElectionsEdit

On February 3, 2014, The Republican newspaper reported that Lesser was considering a bid for the First Hampden & Hampshire seat in the Massachusetts State Senate that was recently vacated by Sen. Gale Candaras.[33] On February 18, 2014, Lesser announced his candidacy for Massachusetts State Senate.[34] On September 9, Lesser won a competitive Democratic primary in the race for state senate.[35] On November 4, Lesser defeated Republican Debra Boronski and America First candidate Mike Franco to win the State Senate seat.[36]

Lesser launched his reelection bid in September 2016 after an uncontested Democratic primary.[37] On November 8, 2016, Lesser defeated James "Chip" Harrington, earning 56 percent of the vote to Harrington's 44 percent.[38] During the campaign, Lesser attracted a series of high-profile endorsements, including President Barack Obama; both U.S. Senators from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey; U.S. Representatives Richard Neal, Joe Kennedy III, and Seth Moulton; former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis; and Springfield, Massachusetts mayor Domenic Sarno.[39][40][37] Lesser was sworn in for a second term in the Massachusetts State Senate on January 4, 2017.[41]

Lesser won his third election to the Massachusetts State Senate in 2018, running uncontested in the Democratic primary and general election.[42]

Political PositionsEdit

High-speed railEdit

 
Sen. Eric Lesser speaks at the Rally for Rail at Union Station in Springfield, MA.

Lesser is a leading advocate of a high-speed rail system to ease travel between eastern and western Massachusetts. He believes that a high-speed rail line between Springfield and Boston would lead to an increase in employment and an overall boost to the economy in Western Massachusetts.[43] In his first month in office, Lesser filed a bill that would require a report of the costs and benefits of a high which the State Senate passed unanimously, 39–0,[44] and the State House of Representatives later passed. Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the legislation; it was later revealed that Peter Picknelly, the chief executive of Peter Pan Bus Lines, had personally lobbied the governor, sending Baker an email urging him to reject the proposal.[45] Picknelly donated $1,000 to Baker's election campaign and hosted a campaign fundraiser for him.[45]

In 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced their intention to study Lesser's east–west high-speed rail proposal; Lesser called this step a "major breakthrough."[46] Lesser's proposed high-speed rail connection has gained the widespread support, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren,[47] nearly all western Massachusetts lawmakers,[48] the Boston City Council,[49] and business leaders like the Greater Springfield and Greater Boston Chambers of Commerce.

Plan to end opioid misuseEdit

After the heroin epidemic resulted in 185 deaths in the first four months of 2014, Lesser created and published a four-point plan with concrete steps to address addiction. His plan includes the addition of more drug courts specializing in sending drug users to treatment instead of jail in Western Massachusetts, work to end dependence on prescription drugs through partnerships with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other organizations, investment in new treatments that have shown promise in decreasing withdrawal symptoms, and an increase in the availability of the drug Narcan, which can save lives by reversing the effects of a heroin overdose.[50]

In January 2015, Lesser filed two bills regarding opioid misuse.[51] Lesser's bills served as the blueprint for the plan ultimately adopted by the Massachusetts State Senate in its 2015 budget, which allocated $100,000 in state funds to buy doses of the drug Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, which can reverse opiate overdoses. Later in 2015, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a settlement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the manufacturer of naloxone, in which Amphastar paid $325,000 into the state's bulk purchasing program.[52] The state's fund spent $377,000 to buy 11,050 doses of naloxone and 8,750 applicators; as of November 30, 2016, 8,500 doses have been distributed to cities and towns in Massachusetts, saving local communities an estimated $186,000.[52]

In January 2017, Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel told the Public Health Council that 50,000 people in Massachusetts were now trained to administer Narcan, and more than "1,500 overdose rescue reports — each a life saved — were received in the first six months of 2016."[53]

EducationEdit

 
Sen. Eric Lesser quizzes students on state government.

Lesser is a leading advocate for civics education in Massachusetts.  In 2018, a bill was signed into law cementing civics education in public school curricula, requiring student-led civics projects, and — as Lesser championed in a previous bill — highlighting media literacy.[54]

Lesser also supports increased investment in vocational training.[55]

Lesser, calling America's $1.5 trillion in student loan debt a "generational crisis," has proposed a Student Loan Bill of Rights to increase oversight of student loan servicers and protect borrowers.[56]

Economy of western MassachusettsEdit

In addition to his proposals on high-speed rail and job training, Lesser has prioritized bringing technological innovation to western Massachusetts.  He worked to pass the Mass Life Sciences Bill, a major investment in grants like the $3.9 million received by Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, to create a new clinical trials unit.[57]

Lesser has also proposed a remote worker relocation program, which would pay $10,000 over two years to employees that could move to western Massachusetts to work from home.[58] His plan is similar to one currently in place in Vermont.[59]

Protecting seniorsEdit

 
Sen. Eric Lesser visits the East Longmeadow Senior Center.

In May 2014, Lesser published an opinion piece in the Springfield Republican detailing a plan to support the increasing population of adults over 65 in Western Massachusetts. Lesser believes that in-home healthcare should be more affordable so that seniors can stay in their homes as long as possible. His plan also includes two points to protect the physical and financial security of the elderly. Lesser wrote that the state should provide increased oversight of in-home healthcare agencies in order to reduce instances of elder abuse, and he supports the increased availability of computer and financial literacy education opportunities to decrease the number of seniors who fall victim to online and phone scams.[60]

Since 2017, Lesser has hosted an annual "Thrive After 55" Wellness Fair where participating organizations answer questions and offer information about their resources to local seniors.[61]

National IssuesEdit

TransportationEdit

On January 25, 2017, Lesser sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to include a high-speed rail line between Springfield and Boston on his list of infrastructure priorities.[62]

Transgender RightsEdit

In response to President Trump's transgender military policy,[63] Lesser sent a letter to Governor Baker in June 2019 asking him to oppose Trump's ban and publicly reaffirm support for transgender service in the Massachusetts National Guard.

Electoral CollegeEdit

After Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the 2016 U.S. presidential election because Donald Trump won more votes in the Electoral College, Lesser filed a resolution in the Massachusetts State Senate calling on the U.S. Congress to propose an amendment to abolish of the Electoral College. "It has now been twice in 16 years, and five times total in American history, that a president and vice president have been elected by winning a majority of the Electoral College, despite the fact that they lost the national popular vote," Lesser said in a statement. "Given the importance of empowering voters to believe every vote counts in a presidential election, the repeal of the Electoral College merits a thorough discussion and examination."[64][65][66]

Outside of the State HouseEdit

Lesser holds a number of national recognitions, including a Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership at the Aspen Institute.  He is the co-chair of the Future of Work Initiative at NewDEAL, a national network of pro-growth, progressive state and local elected officials.  He also sits on the Advisory Board of the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group for student loan borrowers.  Lesser is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[67]

Lesser has consulted with HBO on the television show Veep since 2012.[68][69]

Lesser has taught workshops on campaigns, elections, and public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on millennial leadership in local and state politics.[67]

Personal lifeEdit

Lesser married attorney Alison Silber on December 31, 2011.[7][70][71] They have two daughters, Rose and Nora, and a dog named Cooper.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ https://www.masslive.com/politics/2015/01/democrat_eric_lesser_of_longme.html
  2. ^ Zuckerman, Elizabeth (June 26, 2002). "Override: $2 million approved". Union-News. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Flynn, Jack (January 14, 2009). "Longmeadow High School graduate Eric Lesser readies to join Barack Obama's White House team". The Republican. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Schoenberg, Shira (March 25, 2013). "Longmeadow native Eric Lesser celebrates Passover seders with President Obama". The Republican. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  5. ^ DeForge, Jeanette (October 13, 2010). "Longmeadow doctor Martin Lesser, 58, to leave for Iraq with Army National Guard". The Republican. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  6. ^ "Dr. Joan G. Lesser, PHD". Health Grades. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Alison Silber, Eric Lesser". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Migeed, Ryan (July 18, 2011). "Eric Lesser: Government major to White House". UNlisted. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  9. ^ "Eric Lesser". Religious Action Center. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  10. ^ Flynn, Anne-Gerard (March 25, 2011). "White House's Eric Lesser to speak April 3 at Sinai Temple". The Republican. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  11. ^ Stanger, Melissa (October 10, 2013). "18 Incredibly Impressive Students At Harvard Law School". Business Insider. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Kiely, Kathy (October 20, 2008). "Dedicated team racks up hours, miles". USA Today. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  13. ^ Malcolm, Andrew (November 4, 2008). "A Ticket campaign diary: A day on the trail with Barack Obama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  14. ^ Franke-Ruta, Garance (April 10, 2009). "A Low-Key, High Profile Seder". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  15. ^ Parker, Ashley (June 12, 2009). "And Now, Starring in the West Wing: Ax & Lesser". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  16. ^ Dowd, Maureen (January 29, 2011). "No Axe to Grind". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  17. ^ Cillizza, Chris (February 9, 2011). "Eric Lesser moves on". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  18. ^ Parker, Ashley (April 29, 2010). "All the Obama 20-Somethings". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  19. ^ "Cries & Whispers: Josh Simpson, Eric Lesser, Jose Tosado, Denise Hurst, Richard Cohen, Sister Joyce Wise, Chris Breen and more". The Republican. February 15, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
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  23. ^ Ferst, Devra (March 21, 2013). "How Is the White House Seder Different From All Others?". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  24. ^ Lesser, Joan (March 21, 2013). "Lesser Family Carrot Souffle". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  25. ^ Zeleny, Jeff (April 9, 2009). "Obama Hosts Seder Dinner at White House". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
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  28. ^ Dovere, Edward Isaac (April 15, 2016). "Obama's final White House Seder will be late". Politico. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  29. ^ Obama, Barack. "Readout of the President's Call With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu". Retrieved February 12, 2014.
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  32. ^ Obama, Barack. "Remarks of President Barack Obama To the People of Israel". Retrieved February 12, 2014.
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  38. ^ "2016 Massachusetts General Election results for president, ballot questions, senate, sheriff and more". masslive.com. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
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  42. ^ "Massachusetts State Senate elections, 2018". Ballotpedia. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
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  44. ^ "Sen. Eric Lesser's Legislation Studying Feasibility of Springfield-Boston Rail Service Unanimously Passes Senate | Senator Eric P. Lesser". senatorlesser.com. Archived from the original on January 16, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
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  49. ^ Schoenberg, Shira (May 1, 2019). "Boston City Council supports rail link to Springfield". masslive.com. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  50. ^ Lesser, Eric (April 1, 2014). "Candidate Viewpoint: Eric Lesser Discusses policies to Address Heroin Addiction". The Republican. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
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  52. ^ a b "Communities save estimated $186K through state bulk buying program for anti-overdose drug Narcan". masslive.com. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  53. ^ "State House News Service". www.statehousenews.com. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  54. ^ "Civics Education Bill, Including Measures Championed by Senator Lesser, Signed into Law". Office of State Senator Eric Lesser. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  55. ^ "State Senator Eric Lesser tours vocational training facility". WWLP. January 23, 2018. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  56. ^ Christensen, Dusty (March 13, 2019). "'A generational crisis': Student loan debt in Massachusetts reaches $33.3 billion". The Greenfield Recorder. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  57. ^ "Sen. Lesser Joins Baystate Officials for Announcement of $3.9M Life Sciences Grant to Create Clinical Trials Unit". Office of State Senator Eric Lesser. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  58. ^ Chesto, Jon; January 23. "Mass. senator's plan: Go west to work, and we'll pay you". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  59. ^ "Remote Worker Grant Program". Think Vermont. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  60. ^ Lesser, Eric (June 10, 2014). "Candidate Viewpoint: Four Ways to Protect Our Senior Citizens". Springfield Republican. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  61. ^ "77 Organizations to Participate in Sen. Lesser's Third Annual "Thrive After 55" Wellness Fair on June 21". Office of State Senator Eric Lesser. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
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  63. ^ "Trump's controversial transgender military policy goes into effect". NBC News. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
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  65. ^ Fay, Anthony (November 21, 2016). "Eliminate the Electoral College? State Senator to file bill". WWLP.com. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  66. ^ "Another Effort to Scrap the Electoral College Is Brewing in Massachusetts". Boston Magazine. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  67. ^ a b "About Senator Lesser". Office of State Senator Eric Lesser. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  68. ^ Cogan, Marin (June 28, 2013). "Hollywood Squares". Washington City Paper. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  69. ^ "Eric Lesser". IMBD. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  70. ^ "ALISON SILBER AND ERIC LESSER". The Republican. January 1, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  71. ^ Tracy, Marc. "All the Obama Weddings". The Scroll. Tablet. Retrieved February 12, 2014.

External linksEdit