Jass Stewart certainly isn't new to the Brockton political scene.
The second term city councilor at-large ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor in 2005 and 2007 before a successful bid for city councilor in 2009.
A Dallas native, he said one of his major challenges early on was proving he was committed to serving the city of Brockton - an area he had moved to and adopted as his home.
Now a well-known face in the City of Champions, he is hoping to ensure the same trust in the residents of Easton.
"I think I’ve demonstrated that there are advantages to moving to a place where I want to be," he said. "I’m going to bring that same philosophy to my work in the district for Easton. I’ve already started going to the meetings in Easton so I know what people are talking about."
Stewart (D-Brockton) is running for State Representative in the 11th Plymouth District, which consists of Precincts 1-5 in Easton and all of Ward 1, Ward 3-D, Ward 7-C and 7-D in Brockton. His challengers on the Democratic side consist of fellow City Councilor Robert Sullivan (D-Brockton), Easton resident and Brockton lawyer Claire Cronin (D-Easton), and Southeastern Regional School Committee Chair Mark Linde (D-Brockton). Primary dates are set for Sept. 6, with the winner squaring off against lone Republican candidate Dan Murphy (R-Easton) in the general election.
Currently the seat is held by Geraldine Creedon, who is not seeking re-election.
Stewart said the district wasn't seeing enough representation, a sentiment he hopes to change.
"I thought there has to be a partnership between the local government and state representation," he said. "If you’re not there and you’re not lobbying on behalf of your constituents then we’re not getting the best return on our investment. I’m a person who will think creatively, put in the effort, work collaboratively and be very persistent."
The Councilor's efforts have been largely directed towards helping the middle class, he said. His political views were shaped from experiences he had growing up. At the age of 11, he and his parents packed up and moved to a new home on the other side of Dallas - away from the housing projects where they had previously lived.
"I later learned two things," he said. "One was that we were able to move out of the project to a new home because my dad got a union job. My mom was a public school teacher and at the time she made very little and my dad loaded trucks for a living. That experience moved us out of poverty into the middle class.
"The other thing I learned later in life is that my mother selected that neighborhood. We probably had better choices in terms of neighborhoods, but she knew that that neighborhood had mandatory bussing – school bussing. So, I would make the journey from the south side of Dallas- the poor side, to the very wealthy side where they had the best public schools in the city."
His education helped earn him admission to Boston University and then to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a fellowship in Urban Planning.
Not surprisingly, Stewart says education will be a priority if he is elected. "Making College Affordable" is one point in his "Five Point Plan" for Brockton and Easton, which can be found on his website. Other points are: Creating local jobs, easing the tax burden, controlling the cost of healthcare, and keeping neighborhoods safe.
Within his points, Stewart hopes to create a new job taskforce and tightly control spending to save tax dollars. He also hopes to work with law enforcement and community groups to strengthen regional crime-fighting partnerships and to create programs that prepare high school students for college success.
In regards to healthcare, he supports a single-payer system, which he says will help residents' wallets.
"I support single payer, which is probably the only way I can see us get the cost under control," he said.
Stewart's pro-union roots remain strong, as well.
In a March 2011 editorial in the Enterprise of Brockton, the City Councilor criticized Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for "picking a fight" with the state's middle class, which he said unions helped create. He said that unions, however, are suffering from "mismanagement" and "misplaced priorities."
"Though I believe Walker’s strategy for balancing the budget is, at a minimum, questionable, I also believe that unions play a role in making his methods politically expedient," he wrote in the Enterprise.
"Mismanagement and misplaced priorities have left many in the public with a view of unions as self-serving entities willing to sacrifice productivity and profits for companies and the well-being of society as a whole."
Stewart hopes his initiatives will benefit all of his constituents, and he said diversity in his district is a positive. Balancing the needs of a medium-small town like Easton and a city like Brockton is a challenge he accepts.
"I think it’s healthier for our democracy to have a diverse group of constituents," he said. "I think what you’re seeing is this polarized government because it’s very gerrymandered. You only have to cater to people who look like you, think like you, and have similar interests. And so, there’s no reason to reach across the isle because you can go back home and people will applaud that you stood your ground. When the district is diverse you do have to think about a broad spectrum of interests. It leads you to be more reasonable and more creative and more collaborative."
One of Easton's interests at the state level revolves around possible development of the South Coast Rail, connecting Boston to South Coast cities like Fall River and New Bedford. The tracks would run directly through Easton.
Stewart said he opposes the train for environmental reasons, but also for economic reasons.
"What concerns me the most at the moment is that we have an MBTA system that’s begging for money and we’re talking about a major rail expansion," he said. "It appears to me that it would be smart to take care of who you’re serving at the moment."
Fights against the South Coast Rail, for the Middle Class and affordable health care, and for an improved economy start with a representative in touch with his district, a quality Stewart says he can provide for Brockton and Easton.
"I thought we were missing that representation in this district," he said. "I thought that needed to change."
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series profiling all of the 11th Plymouth District State Rep candidates. Keep an eye out for future profiles. Additionally, all five candidates are blogging on Patch. Check out our Local Voices section to see what they have to say!