CHATHAM – Paul Harrington plans to run “a very unconventional campaign” for the Ninth Congressional District seat.
Harrington, a West Chatham resident who is running as an independent, acknowledged that he is entering the race late in the game, with less than two months before election day, but said he will knock on doors and do whatever else it takes to get his message out to the residents of the district.
That message, in essence, is that the two major political parties are “destroying the country.” As an independent in a district where a majority of voters are unenrolled, he's offering an alternative to the establishment candidates.
“The two parties just want to fight with each other” and aren't interested in finding solutions to the problems facing the country, he said in an interview Monday. “It's all about money,” he adding, with federal legislators spending far too much of their time fundraising.
That's where his “unconvential campaign” comes in. Harrington, 63, an author, lawyer and former president of a real estate-mortgage services company, said he will not directly solicit campaign donations, and won't accept more than $2,000 from any one individual, less than half that allowed under federal campaign regulations.
“I'm not going to do that kind of pressure politics,” he said. He plans to get his message out through a grassroots effort relying on digital platforms like Facebook and email, as well as local media.
This summer Harrington went door-to-door collecting signatures in order to get his name on the ballot as an independent. He will face incumbent Democrat William Keating of Bourne and Falmouth Republican Mark Alliegro in the Nov. 8 election.
This is the second congressional election in a row in which a Chatham resident will seek the Ninth District seat. In 2014, John Chapman ran on the Republican ticket but lost to Keating.
Harrington, who described himself as a “centrist,” sees being an independent in the Ninth District – which includes the Cape and Islands as well much of the South Shore, New Bedford and parts of Fall River – as a benefit; 56 percent of the voters in the district are unenrolled, he noted.
“These are the people I'd target mostly, though I don't rule out Democrats and Republicans dissatisfied with the two-party system” also being attracted to his candidacy, he said.
Harrington and his wife Christine bought their West Chatham home four years ago and have been full-time residents for since August 2015. Their Cape roots go back farther, however; Harrington's mother owned a home in Harwich for many years, and Christine's parents lived in Osterville.
“We've been coming down to the Cape for 45 years,” he said. “We've always liked this area, Chatham in particular,” and bought the home in West Chatham with the intention of “ending up here.” They previously lived in Duxbury for 26 years, where they raised their three children, all of whom are grown and living in the Boston area.
Growing up one of six children in Dorchester, Harrington worked on construction and selling hot dogs at Fenway Park. He graduated from Boston College High School, attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Tufts University and Boston College before graduating with a law degree from Suffolk University. In 1978 he opened a legal practice in Dorchester, practicing criminal law and working as a public defender in the Dorchester District Court. He gradually transitioned to real estate work, and his practice had grown to 10 lawyers in five offices in Eastern Massachusetts before he left in 1992 to serve as general counsel, clerk and president of Lexington-based DeWolfe Companies, which provides real estate and mortgage services. The company grew from five offices to 100 by the time it was sold to a national firm in 2002. At 50 years old, he left the company and decided to devote his time to other pursuits.
“I didn't want to go back into the corporate world,” he said. He ended up working on a book about public policy, and “the more I got into it, the deeper it got.” The result was “The Commonsense Rules,” published in 2014, which looks the nation's constitutional foundation, analyzes current and future fiscal and economic challenges and offers a series of non-partisan solutions, including, boldly, a new constitution.
“If we could look at a clean slate, how would we restructure government so it would work for the people and avoid the problems we've been unable to solve?” Harrington said in explaining the book.
He also decided the only way to make a difference was to make the leap to public office so that he could be in a position to make changes. He said there are ways to solve many of the problems facing the country, but the fighting between the two major political parties means that those solutions “just get kicked down the road.” The place to begin making that change, he believes, is at the congressional level.
As an independent not beholden to a party line, Harrington believes he can be effective, and would have leverage because both Republicans and Democrats would be courting his support. Voices on either end of the spectrum are well represented in the House, he added, but he would represent a more moderate position on many issues.
Although not necessarily all issues. While he backs a free marketplace and thinks over-regulation can hurt the economy, he also believes the country needs a better distribution of jobs and wealth. He favors higher taxes for the wealthy and even supports a basic income level to which everyone should be entitled. Since the economy is driven by spending, money should be put into the hands of those who will spend it, not the wealthy who already have excessive savings, he said.
“I agree with Ronald Reagan in the free market but I agree with Bernie Sanders in inequality of income,” he said. “I don't think they're inconsistent.”
Harrington said he plans to concentrate his campaign on issues that matter to residents of the district. He said there is a need for balance, especially regarding environmental issues. Regarding the dispute over the western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, for instance, he said there should be a way to solve the problem that balances the needs of both the federal agency and the local community. “I'd also like to see cooperation and collaboration” rather than legislation to settle the issue, he said.
Over-regulation is a chief cause of the crisis in the commercial fishing industry, he said, and there needs to be a better balance between protecting the environment and sustaining the resource. There is a need to hear more from fishermen and not rely so much on some organizations that are “only providing one side of the story.” He favors revisiting the Magnuson-Stevens Act and said the commercial fishing industry would be one of his priorities if elected.
Regarding the opiate crisis that has hit the Ninth District hard, Harrington said there needs to be more emphasis on how drug abuse is treated. It's important to see it as a disease and a mental health issue rather than a criminal activity, he said, adding that he supports using federal dollars to support treatment programs that work to prevent the circumstances that lead people to become addicts in the first place.
“I recognize that it's a huge problem, and not one that just affects the huge cities anymore,” he said.
Detailed positions on these and other issues are posted on Harrington's campaign website, paulharringtonforcongress.com.