As the presidential candidates fight to turn states red or blue, Justin Paglino GRD ’08 is urging Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District to go green.
Paglino — a resident of Guilford, Connecticut and previously lifelong Democrat — faces incumbent Democratic congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Republican candidate Margaret Streicker in a race to win one of Connecticut’s five seats in the House of Representatives. Paglino’s platform emphasizes Medicare for All, stronger environmental policy, ranked-choice voting, economic equality and cutting the Pentagon’s budget.
Paglino earned a medical degree from Brown University before completing his doctorate at Yale, where he spent the next 10 years working on virology research. In 2018, Paglino switched career paths, leaving Yale to focus on political activism and music. A first-time candidate, Paglino told the News that he joined the race to ensure that the ticket included a Green Party option — and he reached out to the New Haven Green Party in May to offer his candidacy.
“I believe that if you want something, you have to vote for it because the only way the government will implement what you want is if you show that you’re willing to vote for it,” Paglino said. “And when I learned that there was no candidate on the ballot who supported Medicare for All, that’s when I decided I wanted to run.”
Neither Paglino nor Streicker, the Republican candidate, have served in elected office before. DeLauro is running for her 16th term in Congress and garnered over 60 percent of the vote in her last 13 campaigns.
While the Democratic and Republican candidates have issued negative ads against each other throughout the election cycle, neither have publicly addressed Paglino’s candidacy.
“We wish Dr. Paglino all the best in his race,” Colton Kopcik, a Streicker campaign spokesperson, wrote in an email to the News. “However, Margaret is the clear choice. She has both demonstrable real-world experience in getting things done, in job creation, in growing businesses, and delivering for those she represents.”
The DeLauro campaign did not respond to a request for comment about Paglino’s candidacy.
Accessible health care
Paglino supports Medicare for All, a program that would cover health care costs for all Americans without requiring them to pay copays or deductibles. He told the News he considered absent or insufficient health care burdensome to both the American people and the economy. Because private health insurance companies must serve their shareholders first, Paglino said, he thought they would never prioritize the public — making medical care into a privilege only for those who can afford it.
According to Paglino, Medicare for All is his “top issue.” He said his stance on the topic differentiated his campaign from others — neither DeLauro nor Streicker support Medicare for All. Paglino said that as of now, only one Connecticut representative and one senator — Rep. Jahana Hayes and Sen. Richard Blumenthal — support universal healthcare.
In 2019, DeLauro proposed the Medicare for America Act that offers a public health care option while preserving occupation-based health insurance. Streicker’s platform advocates for decreasing health care costs for senior citizens and small business owners.
A Green New Deal
As the Green Party candidate, Paglino said he was committed to helping the environment. His policy suggestions include a fracking ban, a shift from fossil fuels to clean energy and a carbon tax. Paglino said he believed these changes will mitigate pollution and the greenhouse effect while decreasing American interests in the oil-rich Middle East.
Local Green Party member Jeffry Larson GRD ’70 says he is voting for Paglino because he is the only candidate proposing solutions to our “impending climate catastrophe.” Larson said he is frustrated with past politicians’ failure to act in service of the environment.
“We’ve really done far too little, and the opportunity for us to make a difference, the window of opportunities, has been slowly closing for a long time, and it’s getting past time where we need to act,” Paglino told the News.
He pointed out that in nearly three decades of service, incumbent Rosa DeLauro has never signed on to a carbon tax bill, which would aid environmental efforts by limiting carbon emissions. However, DeLauro’s platform supports shifting toward clean energy development, decreasing foreign oil dependency and implementing safer hydraulic fracturing.
Paglino, like Republican candidate Streicker, has never held elected office before. However, Paglino claims his ability to understand and evaluate scientific concepts would help him address climate and public health law.
Professor emeritus of laboratory medicine and senior research scientist Peter Tattersall — with whom Paglino completed his doctoral research — echoed this sentiment.
“To have someone with experience of medicine and an understanding of the science behind it, is a refreshing addition to our current slate of candidates,” Tattersall said.
Down with the two-party duopoly
Previously a lifelong Democrat, Paglino said he joined the Green Party after Bernie Sanders’ defeat in the Democratic primaries left him disillusioned with the two-party system. He said he believes this system forces people to settle for their second choice candidate to avoid wasting a vote on a third-party. Paglino proposed ranked-choice voting as a solution to this problem.
The state of Maine employs ranked-choice voting in both congressional and presidential elections, while cities like New York use the system for local races.
Although Paglino said he considers ranked choice voting a “vital” reform, he said he believes neither Democrats nor Republicans will propose the change because the current system upholds their dominance. He said a change to the two-party system could only come from a third party — but, ironically, third parties rarely amass enough votes to make the change.
“I hear a lot of people actively encouraging me to drop out, because they worried that I’m a spoiler candidate,” Paglino told the News. “This is the consequence of our two-party system — you have people who share my values actively asking not to have those values represented on the ballot.”
Patricia Kane, chair of the New Haven Green Party and Paglino’s former campaign manager, noted that despite the difficulties facing a third-party candidate, Paglino’s initial petition to join the race garnered over 3,000 signatures — even though he began campaigning during the height of the pandemic, when people were reluctant to make contact with those outside of their bubble.
“People want authenticity in political leaders,” Kane said about Paglino. “They are tired of non-answers and candidates who hedge a position on an issue until it is overwhelmingly popular.”
Economic equality is a key issue on the ballot this year. Paglino’s platform includes policies like Medicare for All, progressive taxation and raising the minimum wage. DeLauro also wants to increase the minimum wage, while Streicker plans to cut taxes and aims to create jobs.
Paglino claimed Congress does not understand how to work towards economic equality because of the wage disparity between the average representative and the average constituent. Streicker, for example, has invested $1.6 million of her own money into her campaign and would be one of the richest members of Congress if elected.
“An individual’s wealth should not determine their ability to represent the hard-working families of Connecticut,” DeLauro told the Connecticut Mirror in response to Streicker’s self-donation.
Paglino told the News that increasing the diversity of voices in legislative bodies is essential to building a stronger democracy, but many people lack the time and money to run a campaign. Therefore, Paglino said he proposes a paid public service leave. He said because running for office is a public good, he believes candidates deserve financial compensation, and he claims it will allow them to represent the people without sacrificing their livelihood.
Stop paying the Pentagon
Paglino criticized the new $740 billion dollar defense budget that passed in the House of Representatives this July — a bill that incumbent DeLauro voted for according to the House of Representatives’ final vote tally.
“For $20 billion we could end homelessness in America, and for $25 billion we could end hunger in America,” Paglino told the News. “For $80 billion we can make all colleges and universities tuition-free. For $50 billion, we can make child care affordable for all Americans, but we spend all of those dollars on the Pentagon.”
For those who say military spending creates jobs, Paglino responded that increasing social spending achieves the same goal. Paglino said that allocating resources away from defense and toward social services would actually be better for the economy.
Larson added that the U.S. military’s carbon footprint means military spending is a prescient environmental issue, too.
Paglino urges those in Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District and beyond to get out to the polls on Tuesday.
“Please consider voting your values, not only in this election but in every election,” Paglino said.
Kane said that, regardless of the election’s outcome, she is proud of all Paglino has accomplished so far and expects him to continue his public service work.
“The Green Party is fortunate to have people like Dr. Paglino in its ranks,” Kane wrote to the News in an email. “Now we have to get him (and others like him) into office.”
The New Haven Green Party’s 10 key values are grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization, community based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, future focus and sustainability.
Jordan Fitzgerald | firstname.lastname@example.org