Sundquist wants to bring voice to voters
Editor’s note: this is the third in a series of stories highlighting Democratic candidates for the 23rd Congressional district.
“We have not had a voice in the western part of our district for a long time,” said Eddie Sundquist, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in a race against four other candidates toward the June 26 primary in New York’s 23rd congressional district.
Hoping to win said primary election, Sundquist hopes to take on incumbent Republican Tom Reed in the general election this fall.
Sundquist aims to provide affordable healthcare for residents of the district, spark an economic upswing of jobs and create more transparency in government for the sake of those he represents.
A Jamestown native, Sundquist graduated from Jamestown High School and attended St. John Fisher College where he majored in political science. He became a teacher thereafter, instructing in middle school science in Philadelphia. Sundquist worked mostly with kids in the court system or those who were expelled from public school as he taught at an alternative school.
To supplement his education further, Sundquist received his education degree from the University of Pennsylvania and went to law school at the University of Buffalo. Sundquist returned to the area to start practicing law at Lewis & Lewis, representing injured workers, families and children. He has been a practicing attorney for about two years.
Sundquist said he may go back to teaching someday for the rewarding experience.
“I do miss my kids. I had the incredible opportunity to go back and watch a lot of them graduate. Students that were in and out of the court system … the school district thought they would never make it, and watching them graduate – and some of them going off to college, some of them going off to trade skills – is an incredible feeling.”
Sundquist entered into the political sphere because of an epiphany he had: realizing that the 23rd district including the southern tier and Western New York are cut-off in ways from the rest of the country and state. He noted that with many young people having no desire to come back, the area counties are struggling to stimulate the job market.
“We have a huge issue with jobs in this district,” Sundquist said, particularly noting that the western counties he is most familiar with are having troubles with unemployment rates of up to seven percent.
Sundquist argues that Reed has had no plan to remedy this situation over the past seven years and has only been reactive instead of proactive. Sundquist plans to not only bring young people back into open jobs but also to provide services that work: hospitals of renown, high-speed internet and, conceptually, the ability to raise a family.
The area is primed to become an environmental technology hub, Sundquist said. With “world-class universities” creating geothermal technologies, young people are expected to find more jobs that interest them. Sundquist is also interested in further utilization of solar and wind energy to provide power and invigorate the job market.
Sundquist also highlighted trade skills such as plumbing, metalworking and welding as crucial for the area.
“I recognized that there is a need; there’s very few young, professional voices out there. There’s very few voices for a new generation of leadership that we need,” Sundquist said.
He hopes to be that voice as the youngest of the five candidates running in the upcoming primary. He mentioned that he is the only candidate who has a jobs plan and is the strongest pro-union candidate. He plans to put the jobs plan in place when he first gets to Washington and fund programs that would emphasize the use of trade skills in high schools and community colleges.
Another thing that sets Sundquist apart is his desire for government transparency as he is the only candidate to release his tax returns. He also has prepared a plan for a New Leaders Caucus, to enforce accountability by planning to limit House leadership terms. For instance, Sundquist is a fan of Nancy Pelosi but does not support her any longer in favor of newer voices for Congress.
Sundquist would also like to have a reinvestment bank in place for municipalities to draw from, so they can start rebuilding roads and bridges and create broadband collectives. He also wants to get rid of the current tax plan, which Sundquist says is “hurting a lot of people in this district.”
He also plans to start a fight for a minimum $15 wage. Farmers’ needs are also high on Sundquist’s priority list. He notes that suicide rates are high in farmers across the nation; if family farms could get more of a cut, Sundquist believes the counties overall would be stronger.
Sundquist thinks he has the strongest platform against Reed and mentioned that the district needs someone from the area to represent them.
A special education student named Jordan was named as Sundquist’s inspiration. The young man was kicked out of public school in seventh grade and was taught by Sundquist. He transformed from being horrible at reading and writing to an aspiring engineer in the time Sundquist knew him. He participated in Sundquist’s robotics club and eventually graduated with Sundquist in attendance.
Afterwards, Jordan thanked Sundquist, which really pushed him.
“We’ve got to do better for our kids,” Sundquist said. “We’ve got to do better for the area that we have.”