2018 Midterms: Interview with State Senate Candidate Katie McBrine, M.D. (D)


Katie McBrine celebrates the opening of her new office in Weymouth on Sep. 24. Photo by Wry Photography.

Will Sutton, Photography Editor

Katie McBrine, M.D. is a busy woman; already a full-time pediatrician and mother of two, McBrine is now the democratic challenger in the race to represent Plymouth and Norfolk Counties in the Massachusetts State Senate. I sat down with McBrine in her Hingham home to discuss her policies and campaign.

Sutton: Why are you running for state senate? What issue, or issues, are most important to you?

McBrine: I’m a pediatrician, and healthcare is a mess. It has been a mess for a while and it just keeps, unfortunately, getting rapidly worse. And so I see my families struggle. I took an oath when I became a physician to help and heal people, and I can’t sit in my office and watch my families be hurt, and not jump in and do something about it. We don’t have any physicians in our state house– I think it’s about time that we did.


Sutton: That kind of leads into my next question. You have relatively little political experience. How would you respond to voters who are worried about electing a new face?

McBrine: I have a lot of experience. You’re right, it’s not in the political realm, but I think we need a little bit more diversity in our government. You know, the government is the way we take care of each other, and we need more people who know how to take care of people in our government. To the people who worry that I don’t have political experience, I think their worry is that I don’t know how to deal with bureaucracy, but if you’ve ever called an insurance company and got them to do stuff for your families, then you know that I can deal with bureaucracy. So I have the skill set from that standpoint.

I also tell them that I think having physicians or people in healthcare is actually really good in politics, because we’re a great combination of brain and heart. You don’t go into helping and healing people if you don’t care about people fundamentally, so there’s the heart component. And the brain component is that I have studied and worked really hard. I’m a very smart individual, and on a daily basis people come in, I listen to them, we talk about their concerns and their problems, and then I come up with a solution that is evidence-based. And I think that is really needed in our state house right now.


Sutton: You’ve advocated for single payer healthcare in Massachusetts. Would you lead this initiative in the state senate, and what challenges do you think you would face?

McBrine: I mean, there’s a lot of things that need to be fixed in our state, and that we need to work on. I think the experience that I bring, that is unique for a state house, is my medical background. And so I would like to be the leader in healthcare for our state.

And honestly, we need to go to a more universal system. There’s fine details in whether it’s a single-payer system, whether you do Medicare for all, or what type of universal system you need, but we need a more universal system. Because people are not getting the care that they need, and business are being crushed by the expense of it, and families are being crushed by the expense of it.

Sutton: Do you think you would have allies in that fight, in either the state house or the state senate?

McBrine: Yes, I do. I think there’s a lot more people who– I know the people of our state are very much behind this, and because we are elected by the people, I think you will find more and more people on board will get elected.


Sutton: Sticking on healthcare, the FDA last week declared teen vaping an epidemic. How would you help curtail vaping among teenagers in our district?

McBrine: I firmly believe in education. The thing about smoking and vaping, right, smoking– there’s old-school pictures, 1940s and 50s, of doctors smoking in magazines, like ‘it’s so healthy for you!’, y’know? (laughs.) I mean, we can google those images. The more that we learn, the more we find out that it’s not. And then we had this huge education push about the dangers of smoking, and I think that’s been really helpful, I mean we’ve seen it drop rather dramatically amongst the population.

So I think the same thing has to be said for vaping. Kids want to try new things; it’s a part of being a teenager, it’s a part of the developing brain, but unfortunately nicotine affects a developing brain differently than it does an adult brain. I think just giving the information out to kids and saying, ‘look, yes, it doesn’t have tar, yes, it doesn’t have that horrible smoke, but it still has chemicals in it, that can be very detrimental to you health and well-being, on a permanent basis.’ And I think kids will respond to that. You’re not gonna get every kid, but you’re gonna get most kids, and that’s what we need to do.

Sutton: And do you support [MA Attorney General] Maura Healy’s investigation into teen vaping and the companies that provide those devices?

McBrine: Yeah. I think Maura Healy is doing an excellent job, and so I pretty much support all her initiatives. And I think yeah, investigation is good, and making sure that, again, things are safe for kids, and that they can’t get a hold of them. Because again, we know they aren’t safe for kids.


Sutton: Since we’re on more local issues, Hingham High School was one of several schools in your district to hold a walkout in March to protest gun violence and advocate for common-sense gun control. Where do you stand on our state gun laws, and how would you make yourself available to students’ concerns?

McBrine: I will always be available to anyone’s concerns, but especially kids, because they’re my passion. I’ve gone to the rallies, I firmly believe in gun safety. I believe in safety in general. That’s what it means to be a pediatrician: you walk into my office, you get a well visit, there’s a litany of things I need to make sure you stay safe on. And one of them is guns. It is a weapon, and we should treat it as such. It was not made for any other reason, just to be a weapon. You can use it for protection, you can use it for fun, I’m not taking your guns away, but you need to make sure that they’re safe, that they’re locked up and stored properly.

I think Massachusetts has amazing gun laws. And we also have really low gun violence rates. And that’s not a coincidence, that’s the reason for it. So I think first and foremost, we need to keep our laws in place. There are organizations that advocate for taking away the laws that we already have, and I would firmly push back against that. And I also think that there are always ways to improve. There are some bills that are being put up to try to improve our already great gun laws, bills that would keep a better registry of how many guns that you have. One of the DA candidates who I’m firmly in support of, he’s talking about trying to get illegal guns out of Massachusetts, which is something I also believe in. So if students, or any people, want to talk to me, they definitely can, I’d be happy to talk to them. I share their concerns, and I’d definitely move on their concerns.


Sutton: On your campaign website, you argue that civil rights in Massachusetts are abridged due to institutional bias, ignoring the Federal Disabilities Act, and lack of equal pay legislation. You then argue that “Legislation plus comprehensive education is how we get this done.” The site details a pretty strong push for education, but do you have any specific legislation in mind that you would introduce of co-sign in order to ensure civil rights?

Well, we have the ballot question, which is number three, and we all need to vote yes on three. It’s a very confusingly worded ballot question, which is done for a very strategic reason, I am sure. But it’s things like that, where we have a lot of protections in place, we just need to enforce them. A lot of problems with the American Disabilities Act is that people aren’t following it. And so we have these, but people are building stuff, and people are forced to sue them in order to get the stuff that’s already in place. And so I think we have to actively enforce the good laws that we already have, in order to ensure that things are equal and equitable for everybody.


Sutton: And you mentioned earlier the DA candidate. Is that– ?

McBrine: John Bradley.

Sutton: John Bradley, and he’s in favor of criminal justice reform. Is that something you’re for?

McBrine: Yes, he’s amazing. Vote for John Bradley.


Sutton: You also talk about veterans on your website. Do you have any legislation or initiatives you’d propose to help them secure employment and homes?

McBrine: I would have to look into actual bill numbers and stuff like that. That’s something I have to work on; I can tell you all the big, fancy words for medicine but I can’t tell you the bill numbers yet. But basically, I come from a family of veterans. That’s what it says on my website, that’s what I’m very proud of. My dad is a Vietnam vet, my two grandfathers both served in World War II.

So I’m a strong proponent of supporting our veterans. And unfortunately, when they get out of service for our country, we tend to forget about them. They get a big homeless population, they struggle a lot with mental health care, because it’s very difficult to do the job they have done. And they struggle getting jobs. They have a lot of skills, have learned a lot of skills in doing what they’re done. But sometimes it doesn’t translate, due to bureaucratic reasons, over into jobs here. So I think we need to look at ways– especially those two ways: jobs and homes, and see if there’s ways we can make those easier for them, what can we do. I mean, just across the board, we need more affordable housing; we need more affordable housing for everybody. But I definitely think we need to look at how we can help that with the veterans.


Sutton: Final question: why do you believe voters should choose you in November?

McBrine: Basically, I think, all the reasons I’ve mentioned. I mean I have a new set, and a good set, of skills. And I have a more progressive set of ideas, that I think our state desperately needs. I have the work ethic, I’ve shown that I can work very hard. I’m working full time, I’m campaigning full time, I have two kids, and I’m doing it. And I want to take all that energy and work on the problems in our state. Because we need it, we deserve it, and I really care about this, I really care about everybody here.

And we can make it better. I think we– especially now– every day wake up and there’s horrific going on with the news and you get a little disheartened. But we can make it better. We get good people in government, and we can make it better. And so I’m trying.


This interview was edited for clarity and coherency. The views presented have not been altered in any way.