Even though media had already declared Nika Elugardo the winner of the 15th Suffolk District state representative race, she wasn't ready to declare victory.
The holdup was a pesky broken ballot box in one precinct and Elugardo needed to know the final vote tally across the district. But it wasn't until she got a phone call from a certain politician congratulating her on being victorious that let her know she won.
Within a short time the ballot box was fixed and Elugardo took home 52 percent of the vote to incumbent Jeffrey Sánchez's 47 percent, making her victory one of the biggest upsets in recent Massachusetts election history!
And that phone call? It was a voicemail message from Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, said Elugardo to Jamaica Plain News. She joked she hopes DeLeo is also not thin-skinned considering she's criticized him during her campaign. Also, she knocked off Sánchez, who presumably was close to the speaker, as DeLeo chose him to be the chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Elugardo said that as of Wednesday afternoon she hadn't spoken with Sánchez, and noted the loss of a powerful politician to the community.
"I recognize that we are losing something wonderful, as he was our district leader, and the chair of Ways and Means," said Elugardo, adding the incumbent had easy access to the budget.
But she's quick to point out she has developed a "mastery of raising resources for Boston." She's already been approached by constituents offering their help and networking abilities. "I want to work with the speaker to make sure our districts are all represented fairly," said Elugardo.
Why She Won
"I think that it was a message to all of us, of what we were feeling since the federal elections. There's a sense of energized activism in individual communities and individual's lives in a sense, or first time commitment to really impacting justice so that we can see justice for all," said Elugardo. "The ideals of the community were under attack and people were waking up to our own legislators who weren't delivering on issues such as the climate or immigration."
She added that we could be stronger on education, specifically mentioning the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission that would update the state’s 25-year-old funding formula. There was a bill that would've updated the funding formula that came close to becoming law this last session, but died in the House. The bill was championed by state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, of who Elugardo was a policy advisor.
Elugardo would like to see education for children 5 and younger to be fully funded, and have legislative checkpoints for education to support schools to make sure they are working effectively. She compared it to how businesses have policies built into organizations to evaluate success and lead to improving the company.
It Was Math, Not Magic
Elugardo provided a very simple answer as to how she won.
"By counting up how many voters we needed and then going to get people to vote for me. It wasn’t magical, although there were a lot of magical aspects to the campaign. But how to do it was not magical. It was mathematical," said Elugardo.
"We want to reduce displacement with affordable housing and make sure that low-income and elder housing properties don’t spike and rents rise," said Elugardo.
She added the legislature could write definitions to not put pressure on those types of housing and reduce the outcome possibility of displacement.
Lobbyists and Solar Power
"I’d like to promote that legislators take a pledge to not take any money from a conflict of interest until we can find what the person represents as a lobbyist," said Elugardo.
"In my case the only donation we have under review is we're looking at anyone who’s connected to the solar industry. We want to check out if anyone that can be a conflict of interest. It’s not that conflict of interests are bad, it’s bad if you’d don’t address it," said Elugardo.
She specifically mentioned the solar power industry because she will refuse supporting any new non-renewable energy infrastructure projects. She wants to see people who are using renewable energy be reimbursed in full if they're producing more energy than they are using.
"If it’s a corporation and not a person who could be influencing me, I’m not able to separate my personal interests in my campaign coffers from collective interests. We need protections in place so that it gets done for me and other eyes are on it besides my own," said Elugardo.