In an otherwise all black-and-white-decorated apartment, a small American flag pin sits on Robbie Goldstein’s kitchen table. His husband Ryan Stanton bought it for him, and it waits as a reminder of the task at hand. It's Saturday, November 16, and in just two days, Goldstein, a doctor, will announce his run for Congress against nine-time straight incumbent Stephen Lynch, a fellow Democrat.
Having attended college and medical school at Tufts University, Goldstein, 36, has spent most of his adult life in Boston. While he's been married to Stanton for nearly all of that time, he shrugs off this relationship achievement; Massachusetts has had marriage equality since 2004, and the two tied the knot in 2008. Today, the husbands live in the Seaport District where they enjoy their handsomely furnished second-floor apartment (Stanton is an interior designer), even as the neighborhood feels the immediate effects of climate change; storm surges often send dumpers bobbing down the street they live on.
Goldstein is the second queer candidate to put his name on the ballot in the 8th District after queer software engineer Brianna Wu announced a second run to unseat Lynch. It's also Goldstein’s first foray into politics, and he hasn’t raised any money yet. He only has a campaign manager and a couple of advisors; the LGBTQ Victory Fund doesn’t even know his name. His slogan, “Robbie for Change,” is so generic it betrays the absence of a media operation.
“I certainly think I'm gonna win this race,” he tells NewNowNext, a smile spreading across his face. “We are in a different era of politics. We are in a time when people are looking for a fresh perspective. They're looking for someone who can enact change. I'm that person.”
On the surface, nothing on Goldstein’s resume has primed him for this moment. Up until this point, he stayed strictly within the confines of the medical profession: He’s currently the medical director of the Transgender Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, which he was instrumental in building; and dedicates his life to caring for people with HIV.
One may wonder how this Rochester-raised physician will contend with President Trump if the residents of South Boston and its outlying suburbs send him to Washington. Still, Goldstein promises he’s ready to rattle the system. That starts with Lynch, who Goldstein criticizes as stale at best.
“Stephen Lynch has been in office since I moved to Massachusetts in 2001,” says Goldstein, who strongly disagrees with Lynch’s stance on insurance. (Lynch won’t back Medicare for all, to the dismay of many of his own constituents.)
“If you go back and take a look at the record, what's most striking is that [Lynch] hasn't been the one bringing legislation to the floor to change the system, to make things better for those who need it the most,” Goldstein continues.
For years, Lynch was dubbed Massachusetts’ most conservative member of the Congressional delegation due to his stance on social issues. He was anti-choice (he has since changed stances), and he voted against the Affordable Care Act. He has long been criticized as hostile toward LGBTQ people, opposing marriage equality as a state senator and domestic partnership benefits. In 2013, he was the only Massachusetts congressman not to sign on to a court briefing against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, which he blamed on an email glitch.
“Calling me the least liberal member from Massachusetts is like calling me the slowest Kenyan in the Boston Marathon,” Lynch shot back to The Boston Globe in 2010.
And while political ambitions and the times have pushed Lynch left on issues like gun control and abortion, more progressive candidates like Wu and Goldstein have still been biting at his heels. Big wins for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York are breathing new hope into underdog outsider candidates who are tired of staring at the same results roll in every November.
Goldstein is ready to leave the trans program at Massachusetts General Hospital, which he has grown from just himself to a team of doctors, nurses, and social workers, to do more.
“I often say I have the best job in the world, I love what I do every single day,” he says. “There are so many challenges that people face, and I can address a lot of those challenges. One on one, when I'm in the exam room, I do what I can to make that person in front of me feel a little bit better.”
So why leave? And what qualifies him to tackle Washington?
Goldstein argues that his management skills earned in overseeing a major hospital program are applicable to Congress, and he thinks the legislature could use a medical mind as Democrats weigh another massive health care overhaul. He also thinks that his health care prowess qualifies him to tackle multiple policy issues.
And, like so many who run for office, Goldstein claims he can be more effective in D.C. than at his current post. In his case, he explains, it's not only about getting a doctor a seat at the table to discuss health care.
“It's [also about] the people who have been left out of the health care system, like the LGBTQ population,” he says. “It includes the people who have built their own health care system, like labor and unions in America.”
“We are seeing not just the epidemic of those that are lost to gun violence, but the trauma that people experience when they witness gun violence or lose a family member from gun violence,” Goldstein continues. “That is a health care issue, right? When we talk about the climate crisis, climate change is a health care issue.”