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Lowell Sun - Eldgridge Kicks Off Bid on Health-Care Stump

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Location: Lowell, MA

Lowell Sun - Eldgridge Kicks Off Bid on Health-Care Stump

By Matt Murphy,

State Rep. Jamie Eldridge is staking his campaign for Congress on a slate of progressive ideals, none more important, he said, than universal health care.

So it only made sense yesterday that Eldridge chose to officially kick off his campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan in Washington from the quad at Lowell General Hospital.

"It is a moral disgrace, and the only way to provide health care to every man, woman and child in this country is universal, single-payer health care," said Eldridge, one of five Democrats running for Congress.

More than 46 million citizens live without health care in the United States.

Eldridge, in stark contrast to his four Democratic opponents, supports a nationalized system of health care similar to European models that would eliminate the private, profit-driven system of today in favor of a universal, government-run model similar to Medicare.

It is the only long-term solution, he said, to guaranteeing affordable health care for every American. His first action as a member of Congress will be to join 62 other co-sponsors of the National Health Insurance Act.

A single-payer system will not only reduce the administrative costs of health care, but will also lead to more doctor choice and preventative care. He said it can be paid for with a modest payroll tax, in lieu of high deductibles and premiums, and a roll-back of President Bush's tax cuts.

Eldridge started his daylong tour of the 5th District in Lancaster, continuing on to Emerson Hospital in Concord, Lowell and then the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence.

He took a small tour of Lowell General, talking with a doctor and nurses about the services they provide.

The campaign kickoff wrapped up in Acton with a rally at Jones Tavern, where he was joined by his colleagues and supporters, state Sen. Pam Resor, D-Acton, and Rep. Harold Naughton, D-Clinton.

The youngest candidate in the race, at 35, Eldridge grew up in Acton before continuing on to Johns Hopkins University and Boston College Law School. After getting his law degree, he took a job as a legal-aid attorney working community economic development with Merrimack Valley Legal Services in Lowell and Lawrence.

He was elected to the state House of Representatives from Acton in 2002 as the only "Clean Elections" candidate in Massachusetts history to win a seat in the House, having rejected special-interest money and running a wholly public-financed campaign.

Eldridge prides himself on his "progressive" values and said he is willing to stand up and fight for what he believes in. He dismissed critics, including some of his opponents who have suggested that single-payer health care is too radical.

"After the stock market crashed in the 1930s, FDR had another unrealistic idea," he said. "It was called Social Security. And it became the most successful anti-poverty program in United States history for seniors."

In addition to repealing President Bush's tax cuts for big oil companies to invest in renewable energy, Eldridge said the country needs to immediately rethink its strategy for the war in Iraq.

"The time for nonbinding resolutions is over," he said. "We need to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home."

To the critics of that strategy, Eldridge said it is clear that America has already been defeated in Iraq, and that the country's military presence is only fueling the insurgency.

Eldridge also plans to take the mantle from Meehan and fight for campaign finance reform, as well as a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays and lesbians and the Defense of Marriage Act.

"People are hungering for real leadership in this district," he said. "They need real leadership to take care of the needs they are concerned about. That's why I'm going to win this race for Congress."

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