State rep. focuses on constituency, education in discussion with NU Democrats


Paxtyn Merten

The opinions of constituents come first for newly-elected Massachusetts State Rep. Chynah Tyler, something she emphasized during a discussion with Northeastern students Tuesday night in Kariotis Hall.

Tyler, a Democrat and representative for the seventh district within Suffolk County, is a 2011 Northeastern alumna born and raised in Roxbury, one of the neighborhoods she now represents.

In March, Tyler began campaigning for the primary elections, going door to door to get input from people living in her district.

“I just pretty much went out there and conducted a survey and asked folks, ‘Hey, what are the issues that concern you?’ to determine what my platform was gonna be,” Tyler said. “It just made things simple for me so that when I did create my platform, when I did file legislation this past January, it was smooth because I had already done the research and I didn’t have to go back to the community to ask them what they want.”

The discussion with Tyler was hosted by the Northeastern University College Democrats (NUCD) after the organization’s political director, Erin Thornton, reached out to Tyler.

“I thought it really interesting to have someone who is a Northeastern alumna and who is so young” said Thornton, a junior political science and international affairs combined major. “She is a pretty good role model for how you can very easily transition from where we are now to actually making a difference in the community.”

Tyler graduated Northeastern with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Northeastern. She subsequently worked as a caseworker for federal inmates and a legislative aide for Massachusetts state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz before launching her campaign. Tyler said she decided to run for office after former Rep. Gloria Fox announced her retirement. Fox, a Democrat, served from 1985 to 2017 and was one of few women of color in the Massachusetts legislature.

At the meeting, Tyler sat on a table and swung her feet back and forth while discussing the campaign and her plan moving forward. She was the first candidate on the ballot after receiving approximately 700 signatures on her petition to run, more than quadrupling the 150 certified signatures a candidate needs to be put on the ballot, said Frank Farrow, her campaign manager.

“Statistics: You wanna shoot for the stars to get what you want,” Tyler said.

The representative’s focus on her constituency stuck out to many NUCD members who attended the talk and discussion, including Thornton.

“She seemed to place a big emphasis on what her constituents wanted rather than what she personally thought was the best,” Thornton said. “I just felt that that overall focus in her responses tied back to what she’d heard from folks during her campaign and that was a really interesting perspectives.”

Tyler said she won the election by 100 votes, adding that her non-polarized position on charter schools may have cost her votes. Tyler attended Boston Public Schools and charter schools and said she is “pro-education” rather than for or against charter schools, a sentiment which she repeated when a student asked for further clarification on her position.

“As a legislator you shouldn’t dictate what kind of schools parents send their children to,” she said. “My constituency, they told me what schools they wanted: They wanted charter schools, they wanted district schools, they wanted parochial schools, they wanted all different types of schools. So as a leader I have to provide that to them, regardless of what my position is.”

Amanda Knightly, the NUCD communications director and a third-year political science and international affairs combined major, was excited to hear Tyler talk at the meeting and was the first to shoot her hand up to ask a question during the discussion segment.

Knightly said it was refreshing to hear a Democrat talking about charter schools with more of a focus on school choice.

“I think that gets lost sometimes and people do forget that charter schools are public schools, and in politics I think some people want politicians to take a super strong stance on something,” Knightly said. “But if politicians are saying ‘No, my constituents want this,’ then to go that direction is so respectable.”

Vibha Honasoge, NUCD president and a sophomore philosophy, political science and economics major, said Tyler was relatable and talked to students in a personal way, especially by asking students if she had answered their questions before moving onto the next one.

Honasoge said NUCD brings in working politicians to add to the discussions members have at their weekly meetings.

“We can’t just have meetings where we’re talking about things that people already know,” Honasoge said. “We have to be more than just imparting information. We have to have meetings where we are bringing in people who are players in politics and having discussions with them.”

After the discussion, Tyler said she hoped she inspired students to speak up about issues they care about and to speak out for others.

“I came in this race because I just want to simply help people,” she said. “Folks maybe ask different legislators why they got involved in politics and they give this super glorious, fine-polished answer, but for me, I just simply like helping folks.”

Photo by Paxtyn Merten