Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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Guilford Resident, Medical Scientist Campaigns for Congress on Healthcare-Focused Platform


Justin Paglino, a Guilford doctor running for congress, poses with a mask advertising his signature issue. Photo courtesy of Justin Paglino

Justin Paglino, a Guilford doctor running for congress, poses with a mask advertising his signature issue. (Photo courtesy of Justin Paglino )

For Dr. Justin Paglino, it started with a simple question—the same question he has been approaching people with for the past month: What do you think about Medicare for all?

Launching a long-shot challenge to 13-term U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s 3rd District seat as a member of the Green Party, Paglino—a medical doctor with a lengthy research career working in the fields of virology, oncology, and neuroscience—said he thinks it’s time voters have a chance to have their voices heard on certain issues, starting with health care.

A Guilford resident for the last 17 years, Paglino said year he was surprised and disappointed to find that DeLauro, a Democrat, does not support Medicare for all, an issue that has exploded onto the national political landscape through the candidacies of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“Since nobody else was going to be on the ballot to support that issue, I decided I would have to be the person that did it,” Paglino said.

Originally from Shelton, Paglino went to medical school at Brown University and trained in clinical pathology at Yale. Earning a PHD at Yale, he spent another 10 years researching viruses as potential tools for treating cancer, with his work funded for five years from the National Cancer Institute.

Paglino moved to Guilford in 2003, which was a formative time for him politically as he worked to rally support for former Vermont governor Howard Dean as a progressive in the 2004 presidential election. Paglino also served on Guilford’s Democratic Town Committee.

Forgoing the path most politicians take—seeking local office, followed by state-wide campaigns and then potentially running for a federal seat—Paglino said he simply feels the issues that he is most passionate about at best addressed from Washington D.C.

“I care about state level politics, but this is just where I’m drawn,” Paglino said. “Medicare for all is a national issue.”

That is the issue he has brought directly to voters on the street, as he seeks to garner enough signatures to get on the ballot this November, Paglino said, with health issues at the forefront of nearly everyone’s minds.

The coronavirus pandemic and the federal response to it shows the United States has failed to follow sound science in public policy, Paglino said, which is something he would hope to change in Congress.

Paglino specifically cited attacks against National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci—an “eminently respected” researcher and doctor—whose work or opinions have been undermined or disregarded by many in the current administration.

“You don’t rise through the ranks of science by being dishonest,” Paglino said, “because you’re surrounded by colleagues who are trying to identify mistruths...and you can’t get through that gauntlet if you’re a dishonest person, or if your conclusions aren’t based on solid evidence.

“I think people have kind of become skeptical of scientific expertise in a way that isn’t merited,” Paglino added. “And it’s disappointing to me to see that...I have a real appreciation for how much value that expertise carries.”

Although Medicare for all, set against the backdrop of a crisis potentially worsened by the dismissal of scientific advice by many politicians, remains Paglino’s most pressing and urgent issue, he said he would hope to bring the same approach to policy across the board, from climate change to gun control to racial justice.

“Understanding problems and solving them is going to be best accomplished when you are making use of the best available knowledge, and science is what offers us the best available knowledge,” Paglino said.

But Paglino also hopes to buck the perception that he is a single-issue candidate. While his website lists a handful of key areas of focus, the one that he describes as his second most-passionate political item is ranked-choice voting.

Rather than simply making once choice between several candidates, ranked-choice allows voters to list their preferences, ordering candidates from most to least desirable. Paglino says that a move away from the current system of “winner take-all” elections will leave room for more diverse opinions and discourage a toxic political culture with potential allies forced to battle over the same voters.

“So many people are losing faith in our democracy and our system because they don’t feel represented by one of the two parties and they want to feel at home...They’re tired of having to pick the lesser of two evils,” Paglino said.

With ranked-choice, a voter who preferred a more conservative candidate could rank that person as number one, and then select more a moderate candidate as a second choice. If the number-one ranked candidate didn’t garner enough votes, the vote would transfer to the second-ranked candidate.

This creates a system that is more open to cooperation, Paglino said, as well as toward multiple political parties. Part of Paglino’s reasoning to run as part of the Green Party was to show support for change in the two-party system and spark the conversations about electoral reform.

“A lot of people don’t know there’s an easy way out,” Paglino said. “But everyone I explain it to loves it as soon as I explain it...It solves all these problems with a simple formatting change.”

Still working to reach enough signatures to have his name on the ballot, Paglino said he is entirely focused on the current campaign, and getting to Congress, with a passion for national issues. But he said despite his long career in science, he will always remain involved politically, speaking directly to people.

“I enjoy going out and talking to people...I’ve been going out every day and talking to strangers,” Paglino said. “There seems to be pretty much a universal agreement among the people I’ve talked to that our health care system is in dire need of improvement. So that just encourages me to feel that what I’m doing is important. I’m trying to give those people voice.”

More information about Justin Paglino and his campaign can be found atjustin4all.org.

Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Jesse at j.williams@shorepublishing.com.

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