Methuen billboard targets Lori Trahan after she recalled her support for term-limit pledge

LOWELL — U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan is in the spotlight for having “reneged on her promise” to support term limits, according to one political advocacy group.

The organization, U.S. Term Limits, recently contracted a billboard in Methuen on Interstate 93 at 55 Hampshire Road that reads, “Rep. Lori Trahan is breaking her U.S. term limits pledge.”

That pledge, which the group sends out to candidates for Congress, is a commitment to support an amendment that would limit House terms to three terms and Senate terms to two, according to their website.

About 133 federal legislators have signed the pledge, including 113 in the House and 20 in the Senate, said Nick Tomboulides, executive director of U.S. Term Limits.

Trahan, who recently began her third term representing the 3rd Congressional District, signed the pledge in 2018, while she was first running for Congress in the Democratic primary, but now views that support as somewhat of a mistake.

“I ran for Congress because I thought Washington wasn’t working and wanted to make things better,” Trahan wrote in a statement. “I honored my pledge in my first term and cosponsored this legislation. Now that I’ve learned more, I have chosen not to continue cosponsoring a bad bill.”

The current proposed legislation, reintroduced this term by U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, states that representatives should be limited to three two-year terms, or six years, and senators to two six-year terms, or 12 years, and no longer limits.

Instituting congressional term limits requires an amendment to the Constitution, meaning it needs two-thirds support in the House and Senate.

The potential amendment has attracted 58 co-sponsors, all but one of whom are Republicans.

The goal of the billboard is to inform voters that Trahan is “not keeping her word” and is an effort toward “public accountability,” Tomboulides said.

Tomboulides, who describes himself as an independent, said he’s “puzzled” by that party divide, since the vast majority of Americans, both Democrat and Republican, support term limits.

“I think perhaps what they don’t realize is this is a super unique issue,” Tomboulides said. “It’s the most popular bipartisan issue in the country, so it should be viewed differently, I think, than everything else up there on the hill.”

About 82% of Americans support term limits for senators and representatives, according to a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll.

Tomboulides said U.S. Term Limits is “totally nonpartisan,” but its superPAC counterpart does not appear to be. In the 2018 and 2022 election season, Term Limits SuperPAC spent a total of $555,855 against Democratic candidates and $202,353 in support of Republican candidates, according to OpenSecrets. The PAC spent no money for Democrats or against Republicans, according to that data.

The PAC is “a separate entity” from the advocacy organization, Tomboulides said, and he could not speak to those decisions. He said the PAC had endorsed a progressive Democrat in Texas, but The Sun could not find evidence to confirm that claim.

While she is not against term limits, Trahan stated that efforts to call her out lack context.

“I think term limits of some length make sense, but I will not be bullied by a partisan group to continue supporting a proposal that is too rigid and would make it harder to get results for working families like the one I grew up in,” she wrote. “I remain committed to enacting reforms that will finally make government work better.”

U.S. Term Limits also recently put up a similar billboard in San Francisco against U.S. Rep. Young Kim, R-California, who apparently broke the pledge as well.

Philip Blumel, president of the organization, wrote in a statement that he hopes “Rep. Trahan has a change of heart and decides to keep her promise.”

“Lori Trahan made a promise to the voters of her district to support the U.S. Term Limits amendment,” Blumel stated. “Yet, once she was elected, she decided to ignore the promise she made to her constituents.”

Term limits allow underrepresented groups, including women, to be elected, Tomboulides said, bringing “new ideas, new faces” to the table. It also allows constituents to establish stronger connections with their representatives, who will not be tied to lobbyists and special interests, he added.

“Ordinary people can run for office and win when a seat is open. Nobody really has a shot at challenging an incumbent who’s been there for 20 or 30 years, that person is just too powerful and has too much money,” Tomboulides said. “Term limits, it brings down the barriers to entry and allows more people to run for office.”