BOSTON (State House News Service) – Independent gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk, whose background is in health care, has selected as a running mate Angus Jennings, a town planner and western Massachusetts native who currently lives in Concord and runs a land use and community planning consultancy.
Neither candidate has run for office before, and both cited their professional expertise in health care and housing as important qualities that will help them appeal to voters.
“They’ve heard the general sort of vague platitudes that they typically hear from candidates,” Falchuk told the News Service on Wednesday during an interview in his downtown Boston headquarters.
Jennings, 38, said his experience speaking before town meetings where sometimes more than 1,500 residents in towns like Lynnfield and Kingston show up gives him a unique perspective on local government. He said he is well known within the city and town planning community.
“We expect that there’s going to be a lot of grassroots interest around the Commonwealth,” Jennings said, referring to his teaming with Falchuk. Falchuk and Jennings said they would soon unveil a “thriving communities” action plan, which they said will include ways to better align state and local housing policy while retaining local zoning control.
Falchuk, 44, draws most of his support from independents and Democrats, according to the campaign, but so far has trailed the frontrunners in both major parties – Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker – in support and name recognition in recent opinion polls.
“There is no shortage of desire among voters in Massachusetts to see things different,” Falchuk said. He said, “They know who Charlie Baker is because they saw him lose to Deval Patrick. They know who Martha Coakley is because they saw her lose previously as well. So they’re familiar with those names. At the end of the day their familiarity with those people is one of the reasons that they find what we’re doing so appealing.”
In a March MassINC poll, only 18 percent of likely voters had heard of Falchuk and only 4 percent had formed an opinion of him.
Accepting the ticket’s longshot prospects, Falchuk said Wednesday, “It would make history for sure.”
Preaching practicality and know-how in two major areas of government, they are also attempting to start a new United Independent Party.
“For people who work in government who haven’t actually stood on the floor of Town Meeting before 600 or 800 people or in some cases 1,600 people needing two out of every three people to vote in favor of zoning amendments, without having had that experience, it’s very difficult to understand how municipalities really work, what their priorities are, what motivates them,” Jennings told the News Service. He said one of the reasons he is “delighted” to join the ticket is the opportunity to address the tension between the resistance in some municipalities to adding housing because of costs for infrastructure and schools and “the Commonwealth’s very real need for a lot more housing production.”
Both Falchuk and Jennings have fraught family stories of arriving in America. Falchuk’s grandfather fled the Russian pogroms and made a new life in Venezuela where he made enough money to send his children to the United States for schooling.
Jennings’s family story is documented in various Massachusetts histories, as his ancestor Resolved White was a boy who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower. His mother’s maiden name is Breed from a family that settled in Lynn in the 1630s. Jennings was born in Springfield and grew up in Wilbraham.
Falchuk previously worked for Best Doctors, which helps people find the correct diagnosis. Jennings has worked as town planner for Marshfield, director of land use management for Westford, and as a consultant in various cities and towns. Jennings plans to maintain his consultancy during the campaign.
Falchuk said he met Jennings about a year ago, and was impressed with his roughly two-hour discussion of local housing issues. Falchuk said Jennings was “absolutely” his first choice when determining who he should have as a running mate, and Jennings agreed that joining the ticket was the best way to help the effort.
“I want the lieutenant governor to be empowered,” Falchuk said. The campaign is now gearing toward signature gathering, with plans to gather 20,000 signatures without the use of paid signature gatherers. Candidates for statewide office must collect 10,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.