HADLEY — The Republican contender for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was in the Pioneer Valley on Sunday.
Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, of Shrewsbury, had planned to attend a Bikers Against Child Abuse event at the Young Men’s Club of Hadley. But his plan for a meet-and-greet with voters was canceled after he said the group didn’t want political figures and the press present.
“Human trafficking is part of my campaign,” Sossa-Paquette said in a phone interview. “I wanted to come out and support them for their efforts.”
Sossa-Paquette is running for the seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester. That district primarily covers Worcester County but includes the Hampshire County communities of Northampton, Amherst, Hatfield, Hadley, Pelham, Shutesbury, Williamsburg, Westhampton, Goshen and Chesterfield. The district also covers Greenfield and a significant chunk of Franklin County.
Sossa-Paquette, who is himself gay, was recently in Washington where he was trying to convince senators to support the Respect of Marriage Act that had just passed the House amid concerns that the Supreme Court may invalidate the legalization of same-sex marriage after having overturned the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade.
“This is my family,” was his message to senators, he said. “If you don’t do this, you’re affecting my family … This should not be open to debate.”
But, in Sossa-Paquette’s political party, it is open to debate. Only 47 out of 211 House Republicans voted in favor of the Respect of Marriage Act, which would provide legal protection for same-sex marriage. And it faces a steep climb in the Senate.
Sossa-Paquette has also faced criticism from Republicans in Massachusetts for simply being gay and married. Last June, for example, calls mounted for Deborah Martell — a Ludlow representative on the 80-member Republican State Committee — to resign after she said that she was “sickened” that Sossa-Paquette and his husband have adopted children, according to the Boston Globe.
But Sossa-Paquette says it doesn’t mean he is in the wrong political party.
“What it says to me is I have a lot of work to do in the Republican Party,” he said.
Sossa-Paquette is a businessman who owns a day care center. It’s his second campaign against McGovern to represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District; in 2019, he suffered a stroke on the campaign trail and had to drop out of the race, undergo surgeries and learn how to speak again.
Sossa-Paquette is largely financing his campaign himself, according to federal campaign finance records. He has loaned his campaign $90,000 of the total $127,570 he has raised in the period between March 24, 2021, and June 30, 2022. During that period, he spent $116,461 out of his campaign account and ended with $11,109 in cash on hand.
McGovern, meanwhile, has pulled in $850,817 from Jan. 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. Of that, $605,735 came from individual donors. Another $244,250 came from Political Action Committees, or PACs. Unions and progressive groups largely make up the PACs that have given to McGovern. But he has also taken contributions from lobbying groups for sugar growers, the PACs for the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors, medical associations, California wine makers and big law firms.
On his website, Sossa-Paquette says he is “America First,” listing as some of his top issues the national debt, supporting school choice and “funding that follows the child,” “responsible progress toward removing discrimination in all its forms” and supporting adoption over abortion.
Bringing back manufacturing jobs is another concern Sossa-Paquette said he hopes to bring to the campaign trail.
“I want to bring the grant money into our district,” he said. “This is a part of the state that has been ignored.”
The 2nd Congressional District is a reliably Democratic district, and McGovern has coasted to victory whenever he has had a Republican opponent. McGovern won more than 65% of the vote in 2018 and 2020 when he defeated physical therapist Tracy Lovvorn of Grafton.