Meet your candidates: Brendan Boyle for U.S. Congress
Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's 2nd District in U.S. Congress, spoke with AL DÍA News about his re-election campaign.
Congressman Brendan Boyle has represented Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District since 2015 and now, due to the redrawing of the state's congressional map earlier this year, he is running against Michele Lawrence for the 2nd District, which includes neighborhoods in North and Northeast Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania primary election takes place on Tuesday, May 15.
Born and raised in a Philadelphia, Boyle is a first-generation American on his father’s side. His father emigrated from Ireland at the age of 19.
In U.S. Congress, Boyle is a member of the House Budget Committee and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In December 2016, Boyle co-founded the Blue Collar Caucus with the goal of facilitating legislative ideas focused on addressing wage stagnation, job insecurity, reduced career opportunities and other issues related to the manufacturing and building trades. He was also appointed by the Democratic Caucus as the co-chair of the Jobs with Dignity task force.
If re-elected, Boyle hopes to continue work with Congress to pass both a major infrastructure bill to create jobs and improve quality of life, as well as legislation for immigration reform, which he said has "real potential" if the Democrats take back the House.
Prior to beginning his first term in U.S. Congress, Brendan served for six years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He lives in Northeast Philly with his wife and daughter. We spoke with Boyle about his time in Congress, championing the needs of the working class, his experience serving the Latino community, and his support of gun reform, including advocating for a ban on assault weapons.
(This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
What made you want to run for U.S. Congress in the first place?
What motivated me to run for Congress is similar to what motivated me to run for state legislature, and that is to get involved and try to make a serious impact in improving my community and my country. And also representing a perspective that I thought too often is not very well represented. I grew up in a row home in Philadelphia in a very blue collar, working class community, and I tend to think that the perspective of America's working class, middle class, is not that well represented today either in Harrisburg or in Washington.
Beyond that, I was always, from a very early age, interested in public policy: domestic affairs, international affairs. I tend to be a generalist, whether it's education, healthcare, labor laws, environment, immigration, and then all the issues affecting foreign policy, that's just what I've been interested in from a very early age. That's what I went to college for, what I went to graduate school for, so even with all the frustrations of serving in Congress, there is a real satisfaction in knowing that you're working in an area that you feel passionate about and what you've always wanted to do.
What work are you proudest of since first entering U.S. Congress?
Well, I've only been in Congress for three years and three months. Just recently, a couple months ago, I was able to get a bill passed despite being a Democrat serving in the minority. With a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, Democratic President, was able to get a bill passed on cybersecurity, so that's something that I'm very excited about.
In terms of what I'm most excited about though, I would like to think that those wins are yet to come as opposed to the present day. A lot of the agenda I believe in has been frustrated by the fact that the Republican leadership is not exactly in total agreement with a lot of my positions on the issues, and certainly President Trump is not in agreement.
But there's one other aspect to serving in Congress that a lot of times doesn't get focused on, and that is on the constituent service district side. We've been able to help a lot of people with very serious issues, from social security, healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid, and so these don't tend to get a lot of attention. But victories like that are incredibly meaningful to me and especially at a time when it's hard to get anything done in Washington.
I'll give you one example, and this was before I was serving in Congress. I was serving in the state legislature. We were able to help a woman who did not have health insurance get a free mammogram. Sure enough, she was diagnosed with having breast cancer and then we were able to go the extra mile and get her enrolled in healthcare. Being involved in achieving something like that is meaningful in a way that doesn't really translate to just passing a bill.
Pennsylvania's 2nd District has a sizable Latino population. Other than advocating for immigration reform, what experience do you have serving the Latino community?
Actually, I've been one of the leading members of Congress, and when I say one of the leading, I mean one of the three or four who has consistently been advocating for Puerto Rico, and that has been the case the entire time that I've been in Congress. Myself, my colleagues Nydia Velázquez and Luis Gutiérrez, went to Puerto Rico to advocate when Puerto Rico was facing the debt crisis, and unfortunately was being ignored by Washington, D.C. for too long. There are those in Washington who wanted to prioritize Wall Street hedge fund managers over the interests of the Puerto Rican people.
The island of Puerto Rico has seen an incredible depopulation ever since 2005, 2006, when the debt crisis began. So that was an issue I became very involved in even though at the time I didn't represent much of a Puerto Rican population. Now, of course, the Puerto Rican population is not the entirety of Philadelphia's Hispanic population but it is a large percentage, and I take pride in that.
I flew to Florida a couple years ago to speak at a conference of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, and I was one of only a couple members of Congress who was there. I spoke with pride about the fact that, in addition to Orlando and in addition to New York, that Philadelphia is one of the leading centers of the Puerto Rican population in the country, and that was something I was able to educate my colleagues on. So that's one issue where I've been active.
The other is in education. Coming from an immigrant family myself, I understand the importance of education, for everyone, of course, but especially for immigrant families who, by and large, come here to provide opportunities for their kids that the immigrant generation themselves didn't have. Education is the ladder to success in our society, and so advocating for educational opportunities for everyone, but especially those who are lower income or working class. That's an issue for everyone, but let's face it—it does impact immigrant communities and the Hispanic community more so than most other communities.
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