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Little-known Democrat in 5th takes on a well-known issue: political gridlock

Martin Long, 2013Long

Martin Long, among the least known of seven Democrats seeking the Fifth District House seat left by Edward J. Markey, has a laser focus -- on government gridlock.

A book that the 52-year-old Arlington resident has published -- The Reagan Memes: The Path from Reagan Conservatism to Modern Day Gridlock (and how to get out of it). -- suggests the outline of his key theme.

"I am different," he wrote in response to questions about his candidacy. "My high-tech background for one thing. Negotiating skills for another.

"But most importantly, I bring new ideas to the table. My campaign is based upon one premise: This district needs new leadership to restore Congress as a functioning body."

The former member of the Lexington School Committee wrote that political inaction is focused in the House, where nothing the president proposes is considered. His book deals with the historical context of why gridlock is the result of decades of Republican political strategy and what can be done to fix it. 

Aims to restore House as functioning body

Why is he running?

"A slightly longer answer is that the House needs new leadership to restore Congress as a functioning body," he wrote. "It’s a long-term project, but it can be done. There are also things that can be done in the near term, like establishing a Moderate Caucus in the House. There’s evidence that moderate Republicans are getting fed up with what Tea Party extremists are doing to their party."

Long describes himself as a successful sales and business management professional for more than 20 years for some of the country’s leading technology firms, including Sun Microsystems, now Oracle, and IBM.

He said he helped guide newly formed entrepreneurial firms and continues to be involved in the Boston start-up community. For the last four years, he has been involved in the MassChallenge competitions as judge and mentor.

"The interesting part of my bio is that I am currently unemployed, having been laid off by IBM in the depths of the great recession.

"So I know whereof I speak when it comes to dealing with jobs and the woes of the unemployed and underemployed," he wrote. "Instead of wallowing in the depths of despond, I decided to do something really useful. I researched why the country was in a horrible mess and wrote a book about it. This led to my decision to run for the vacated seat in the special election for the House of Representatives."

Two specific initiatives

Apart from taking aim at gridlock, he provided two specific initiatives he would pursue if elected:

    * Amend the War Powers Act, "something that’s highly relevant when the president has decided to initiate a 'limited military action' against Syria. I think that Obama is being cautious.

"But what I want is a law that says 120 days after hostilities in a conflict authorized by Congress, an automatic 'war tax' would kick in. Not only would that be a brake on casual incursions, but it would also help prevent putting future trillion-dollar wars on the U.S credit card — which is what the previous administration did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Never again!"

    * Truth-in-authorship. "We all know that Congress gets a lot of help in writing bills," he wrote "OK. Members of Congress have a lot to do, and some of those bills are ponderously along.

"But I would like to know just what portions of those bills were written by outsiders. Special interests. Lobbyists. Could it just be that at times a little bias sneaks in? That the playing field might get tilted in the favor of this corporation or that industry? Just maybe. You betcha!"

He said he is counting that his ideas and background to make him stand out.

Describes his competition

"Who’s my competition?" he asked. "Nice people. Well-known people. Most of them hold elective office. And the truth of the matter is that all of us -- all seven of us -- would vote exactly the same way 95 percent of the time.

"So what separates us? The ability to raise money for our next election? They beat me on that.

"But not on my new ideas. I don’t hear many new ideas being floated around the Fifth District these days. At least I haven’t heard them."

Long has a master’s degree in government from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois (Urbana), where he majored in political science and minored in math and computer science.

As an experienced negotiator, he said he persuaded upper-echelon leaders in tech companies to take on a new product or a new system that they didn’t particularly want.

The product or system "would mean a new way of doing things; it would take up their attention; and they just weren’t in the right time frame or mind frame to accept and implement a new idea. But they knew, after a little persuasion and some reflection, that they had to do it. Those are skills I’ll bring to Congress."

High-tech advantage

Long said his high-tech background gives him an advantage. "When select members of the Senate or House view high-level intelligence documents relating to security, how many of them actually have the vocabulary and hands-on experience to understand what they’re reading?" he asked. "In these highly secretive situations, they aren’t allowed to take notes, let alone take the documents to their offices to read or have their staff read. I have the ability to grasp what the documents mean or intimate."

His succinct pitch: "I’m an usually qualified candidate. Technologically sophisticated. Well-educated in political science. An entrepreneur—I’ve been involved in start-ups. And an unemployed knowledge worker. I know what evil lurks in the hearts of corporate America. Who can match those credentials?"

Further, he added what he would do if he loses: "I’ll try my damnedest to bring my energy and ideas to solving that problem -- the defining issue of our day. If we don’t get gridlocked solved, all the rest of the Democratic progressive agenda will never see the light of day.

"No protection of Social Security. No ban on assault weapons. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The House keeps voting to 'repeal' Obamacare. Since that’s impossible as well as senseless, Republicans now want to defund it. The list of what they won’t do is almost infinite."

Martin Long campaign website >>

Sept. 2: Exchange between Long, Avocado

Sept. 1: No front-runner in 5th

This story was published Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, and updated the next day to add a link.

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