Former state senator to challenge Lori Trahan midterm – Lowell Sun

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FITCHBURG — Westford Democrat Lori Trahan won re-election to Congress unopposed in 2020, but this year she will have a Republican challenger.

In an interview Monday, former Sen. Dean Tran of Fitchburg confirmed he was running for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Tran served on the Fitchburg City Council from 2005 to 2017 and served in the state Senate from 2017 to 2021.

When Tran was elected to city council, he made history as the first colored councilor. He was also the first Vietnamese American elected to the State Senate.

At the age of 4, Tran’s family sold everything they had to flee Vietnam after the war. After spending two years in a refugee camp in Thailand, a Catholic priest sponsored them to move to Massachusetts, settling in the town of Clinton. His personal journey is one he thinks voters across the district will be able to connect with.

As a senator, Tran found himself embroiled in controversy during his second term.

In 2020, the Senate Ethics Committee found that Tran had assigned taxpayer-funded office staff to work on his campaign and asked them to help him with his fundraising efforts. According to the committee, staffers were also asked to add voters who called the office for help to the campaign fundraising list.

As a result of the report, Tran was stripped of his role as Deputy Senate Minority Whip. He was also banned from communicating with staffers, except by email, after Senate colleagues accused him of breaking Senate rules and state law.

Looking back, Tran feels he didn’t get due process with the report. He said he had little time to read the report before it was made public and had no opportunity to confront witnesses, who remained anonymous. Tran said he thought it was a concerted effort to get him to quit.

“It’s something that happened to me and it would never have happened to someone with a D behind their name and a Democrat,” Tran said. “And, I have come to the conclusion now that not only was the way I was treated and the actions taken against me, not only were they partisan, but I strongly believe they were also racist.”

Despite the ethics report, Tran only narrowly lost his re-election campaign to Lunenburg Democrat John Cronin in 2020.

Now Tran is looking to make a comeback. He said he is committed to showing people that he is transparent and has not intentionally acted unethically. He also said the incumbent was not without her own ethical concerns.

In 2018, the House Ethics Committee cleared Trahan of any wrongdoing after a collective $300,000 was loaned to his campaign. The committee ruled that the money was the joint property of Trahan and her husband, under a prenuptial agreement.

Campaign finance laws allow a candidate to lend money to themselves, but candidates cannot borrow from family.

In August, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative watchdog group, filed ethics complaints against Trahan and two other House Democrats after an analysis by Insider showed the three made late disclosures about stock trading.

The complaint alleged that Trahan violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act by waiting to disclose a sale for between $1,000 and $15,000 of a stake in software company Stella Connect for 10 months.

According to the complaint, Trahan sold the stake on September 10, 2020, but waited until July 27 to disclose it. Under the STOCK Act, Trahan would have had 30 days from the time she became aware of a stock trade and 45 days in total from the date of the trade. A certified report must be filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

“During the filing of her annual personal financial statement, she acknowledged that an automatic divestiture of her holdings should have precipitated a periodic transaction report,” Trahan spokesman Francis Grubar said. “She immediately filed a PTR to proactively rectify the situation and the matter was closed. Congresswoman Trahan supports the ban on members of Congress buying or trading individual stocks, and she and her husband made a personal decision not to.

Tran said his decision to run stemmed in part from a belief that Trahan was too closely aligned with President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Many immigrants to our district have fled oppressive governments, including communism, to seek freedom. Now we find ourselves under Biden, Pelosi and Trahan that (our) freedom has been compromised. Our personal rights and freedom have been taken away from us,” Tran said.

Tran said that includes vaccine and mask mandates.

But he is also concerned about economic hardship in the district, pointing to rising prices for gas, used cars, utilities and the weekly grocery bill. Tran wants to focus on inflation and also thinks more could be done to support small businesses.

One area where Tran and Trahan differ is the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Recently, Trahan touted the money the district will receive, including money for a new Rourke Bridge in Lowell.

For Tran, opposing the bill was not about a lack of support for infrastructure projects. He said that during his time in the state Senate, he was a ranking minority member on the Joint Committee on Transportation. Having seen the problems in the district first hand, he said he was a strong supporter of infrastructure investment and collaboration from both sides.

“If I was in Congress while this infrastructure bill was being discussed, I can assure you that I would have worked extremely hard with my colleagues, to make sure that we got rid of ‘hog’ spending, which is to spend taxpayers’ money on unnecessary expenses, unrelated issues,” Tran said.

On immigration, Tran said the issue is personal to him. He believes the focus should be on stopping illegal border crossings, particularly given the potential security risk and potential impacts on municipal budgets for housing, health care and education.

But Tran thinks there has to be a solution beyond border crossings alone, speaking from his own journey as an American.

“I’m very direct and direct on the issue of immigration,” Tran said. “I believe this is something that could easily be settled between the two parties. I strongly believe that there should always be a path for anyone who wants to enter the country, assimilate into the culture and become an American citizen.

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