|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Massachusetts's 6th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||John F. Tierney|
Seth Wilbur Moulton
October 24, 1978
Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (AB, MBA, MPP)|
|Branch/service||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||2001–2008|
|Unit||1st Battalion 4th Marines|
Seth Wilbur Moulton (born October 24, 1978) is an American politician serving as the U.S. representative for Massachusetts's 6th congressional district since 2015. A former Marine Corps officer, he is a member of the Democratic Party.
After graduating from Harvard University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in physics, Moulton joined the United States Marine Corps. He served four tours in Iraq and then went on to earn his master's degrees in business and public policy in a dual program at Harvard. He entered politics in 2014 when he ran for Massachusetts's 6th congressional district, a seat that he won and has held ever since.
In early 2019, Moulton was seen as a potential presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Publicly expressing his interest in the prospect, he traveled to early primary states. After announcing his candidacy on April 22, 2019, Moulton failed to gain traction and withdrew from the race on August 23.
Moulton was born on October 24, 1978, in Salem, Massachusetts, to Lynn Alice (née Meader), a secretary, and Wilbur Thomas Moulton, Jr., a real estate attorney. Moulton has two younger siblings, Eliza and Cyrus, and grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1997, and attended Harvard College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 2001. He gave the Undergraduate English Oration at his commencement, focusing on the importance of service.
Moulton joined the Marine Corps after graduation, a few months before the September 11 attacks. He attended the Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. After graduating in 2002 with the rank of second lieutenant, Moulton was among the first service members to enter Baghdad at the beginning of the Iraq War.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Moulton led one of the first infantry platoons to enter Baghdad. He served a total of four tours of duty in Iraq from 2003 to 2008. Moulton took part in the 2003 Battle of Nasiriyah, leading a platoon that cleared a hostile stronghold. In that action, he went to the aid of a Marine wounded by friendly fire, and for his actions he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for valor. Moulton was active in combat against insurgent forces in Iraq, including the 2004 Battle of Najaf against the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr. Over two days, he "fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire" as his platoon was pinned down under heavy fire and then directed the supporting fire that repelled the attack. He received the Bronze Star Medal for his actions in this battle.
In 2008, General David Petraeus requested that Moulton be assigned to work as a special liaison with tribal leaders in Southern Iraq during his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. Following that tour, Moulton was discharged from the Marine Corps with the rank of captain.
In 2003, Moulton co-hosted a television program with his Iraqi interpreter, Mohammed Harba, called Moulton and Mohammed, during which they discussed regional conditions in the period following the U.S. invasion before an audience of U.S. servicemen and Iraqi citizens. The show ended after three months when Moulton's unit left the area.
Between 2003 and 2008, Moulton was frequently interviewed about his experiences as an officer in Iraq by U.S. national media, including CNN, MSNBC, and NPR programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Moulton was also prominently featured in the 2007 Academy Award-nominated documentary No End in Sight. In the film, Moulton criticized the U.S. government's handling of the occupation of Iraq. Director Charles H. Ferguson chose to include Moulton, along with two other Iraq veterans.
After he left the Marines Corps in 2008, Moulton attended a dual-degree program at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School, earning master's degrees in business and public policy in 2011. After graduate school, Moulton worked for one year as managing director of the Texas Central Railway, a transportation firm. In 2011, Moulton and a graduate school classmate founded Eastern Healthcare Partners, which Moulton has invoked to show he was a "successful entrepreneur" who understands "what it's like to face that day when you might not meet payroll." The company raised investor funds and drafted a partnership agreement with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, but in October 2014 the Boston Globe reported that by the time Moulton ran for Congress, EHP had no revenue, was still incubating, and had closed its only Massachusetts office.
Moulton had considered running against Democratic Representative John F. Tierney of Massachusetts's 6th congressional district as an Independent in the 2012 elections, but he decided against it in July 2012, saying that "the time and the logistics of putting together all the campaign infrastructure, organizing the volunteers ... the fundraising—it's just too much to accomplish in three months." He told Roll Call that his own polling "showed there was in fact a clear path to victory" and said he might run for office in the future.
On July 8, 2013, Moulton announced his candidacy in the 2014 congressional race for Massachusetts' 6th district.
The race had been recognized for its competitiveness by national and regional media throughout the election cycle. Moulton challenged Tierney in the Democratic primary.
Tierney's campaign claimed in campaign advertisements that Moulton received campaign contributions from a New Hampshire political action committee that previously donated only to Republicans, implying that Moulton must hold conservative views. Moulton denied being more conservative than his opponent, and stated that the Republican PAC donation was returned. Public Federal Election Commission filings confirmed that the donation was returned in February 2014.
Moulton said that he opposed the Iraq War in which he served. A Tierney campaign staff member said that Moulton had "changed his mind" and highlighted Tierney's vote in Congress to oppose the 2002 resolution authorizing the U.S. Invasion of Iraq. Moulton also received the first-ever political endorsement from Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal during the campaign.
Moulton defeated Tierney in the primary with 50.8% of the vote to Tierney's 40.1%.
Moulton was endorsed by Senator Elizabeth Warren for the general election. In October 2014, he withdrew from a debate sponsored by radio station WGBH because of a series of New York fundraisers, where he welcomed Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The campaigns of Moulton and his Republican opponent, Richard Tisei, were held up as an example of how candidates can compete with respect for each other.
Moulton defeated Tisei in the general election with 55.0% to Tisei's 41.1%.
Moulton was uncontested for reelection in 2016.
Moulton ran against Republican candidate Joseph Schneider in 2018. He won with 65.2% of the vote.
Moulton faced his first primary challenge since winning his own challenge in 2014. He defeated the Democratic challengers Angus McQuilken and Jamie Belsito, with 78% of the vote, and went on to defeat Republican John Paul Moran, with 65.4% of the vote.
Moulton was sworn into the 114th United States Congress on January 3, 2015.
Following the 2018 elections, Democrats returned to being the majority party in the House of Representatives. Moulton and some others who felt current leadership was "too old," gathered signatures to replace Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the Democrats' leader. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) was their first choice as the person to take the leadership role from Pelosi. Bass rejected the offer, as did others, choosing instead to support Pelosi for House Speaker. On November 28, 2018, Pelosi won the speakership on a 203-to-32 vote, with Moulton voting for her.
On August 24, 2021, Moulton and Representative Peter Meijer flew unannounced into Hamid Karzai International Airport amid the evacuation of Americans and allies after the fall of Kabul. The two explained that their visit was kept secret to minimize disruption, and that its goal was "to provide guidance" to the Biden administration. Several government officials said, however, that the surprise visit produced unhelpful distraction from the ongoing work of evacuating people. The next day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to all House members, saying that "the Departments of Defense and State have requested that Members not travel to Afghanistan and the region during this time of danger" because such travel "would unnecessarily divert needed resources" from the evacuation efforts. Moulton defended his Kabul trip against criticisms saying, "At the end of the day, I don’t care what pundits in Washington are saying...They’ve been wrong about this war for 20 years."
Early in 2019, Moulton started recruiting staff for a potential campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2020. He traveled to early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire in March 2019.
Moulton officially announced his candidacy on April 22, 2019. On August 23, 2019, he suspended his campaign and withdrew from the race. During his campaign, Moulton never polled above 2% in any of the 2020 Democratic presidential opinion polls, and he was not invited to the first two Democratic presidential debates, having failed to meet the criteria for invitation.
Following his withdrawal, Moulton's candidacy generated interest after President Donald Trump sarcastically tweeted, in response to stock market fluctuations, "The Dow is down 573 points on the news that Representative Seth Moulton, whoever that may be, has dropped out of the 2020 Presidential Race!"
According to Politico, Moulton has described himself variously "a progressive Democrat," "a pragmatic Democrat" and "a frustrated Democrat."
Moulton is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a congressional caucus made up of Democrats described by themselves as "moderate", "pro-growth", and "fiscally responsible", and by others as "centrist." Moulton was ranked the 34th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).
During an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America in April 2019, just after announcing his run for president, Moulton said, "I'm not a socialist. I'm a Democrat. And I want to make that clear."
According to The Boston Globe, "one of Moulton’s biggest focuses is addressing the long-term impact of automation on the economy, which he says will disproportionately affect working-class communities."
Moulton, who in 2015 co-sponsored legislation increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour, said in February 2019 that he supported an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In 2019, Moulton criticized Trump's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and said that if elected president he would re-engage in negotiations toward "a strong, fair trade deal for the Pacific on our terms, not China's." Moulton also criticized Trump's use of tariffs, telling The Hill that although tariffs remain an option for trade policy the emphasis should be "a comprehensive strategy" and building "our alliances in the Pacific."
Moulton opposed sending U.S. troops back to Iraq in 2014. He also supported strengthening NATO against Russia, as well as keeping troops in Afghanistan temporarily in order to execute a counterterrorist mission in 2019.
Moulton criticized President Joe Biden for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, citing the chaotic evacuation of Afghans who had supported the United States in the effort to fight terrorism. He later co-sponsored the WELCOMED Act with U.S. Representative Don Bacon, providing benefits and eligibility for resettlement to Afghan recipients of Special Immigrant Visas, which was signed into law by President Biden on October 1, 2021.
Moulton supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights. He supports legal immigration and advocates for immigration reform, but opposes illegal immigration and has called it "something we have to confront."
Moulton has admitted to using marijuana and supports the legalization of the drug, saying, "If you're not buying your marijuana from a dealer who sells heroin, who sells opioids, it's much less likely to be a gateway drug. The problem is now that it operates in the shadows. There's no control whatsoever. Someone goes and buys an edible, for example, there's no regulation about what's in that. It's like moonshine under Prohibition."
In September 2018, Moulton co-sponsored, together with Elise Stefanik and Dan Donovan, the "Cyber Ready Workforce Act" advanced by Jacky Rosen. The legislation would create a grant program within the Department of Labor to "create, implement and expand registered apprenticeships" in cybersecurity. It aims to offer certifications and connect participants with businesses in order to "boost the number" of workers for federal jobs in said trade.
Moulton supports the expansion of nuclear energy. In a 2019 interview on the podcast, Titans of Nuclear, Moulton called nuclear energy "a safe, good investment...for the future of our country." He has also expressed support for the expansion of research and development for fusion power.
In a March 2016 interview with The Boston Globe, Moulton compared the rise of the Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, with Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s. Moulton said that, in order to understand how an educated society "can elect a demagogue," voters should read about how the German people elected Hitler in the early 20th century.
Moulton walked out of President Trump's State of the Union address in 2020 citing the portion of the president's address about the administration's contributions to the military and service members. Moulton states that: "Trump—a draft dodger who has mocked Sen. John McCain, Gold Star families, and soldiers with traumatic brain injury—started talking about the good he has done for our military."
On June 15, 2016, Moulton appeared on the cover of the New York Daily News with the statement "No Civilian Should Own This Gun" in reference to semi-automatic assault weapons. The cover pictures Moulton during a deployment to Iraq, carrying an issued M4 carbine.
Moulton penned an opinion piece promoting gun control, including the statement: "There's simply no reason for a civilian to own a military-style assault weapon. It's no different than why we outlaw civilian ownership of rockets and landmines."
On June 23, 2017, Moulton announced on Twitter his engagement to his girlfriend Liz Boardman, a senior client partner at an executive search firm. They were married at the Old North Church, Marblehead, Massachusetts, on September 22, 2017. The couple's first child was born in October 2018. In 2019, Moulton announced, during an interview with Politico, that he was suffering from Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), following his service in the Marine Corps. On August 29, 2020, Moulton announced that the family was expecting a second child, who was born in February 2021.
In the days after the 2018 midterm elections, a small group of dissatisfied House Democrats searched for a challenger to the party's leader, Nancy Pelosi. They were seeking someone to run for speaker who was well-regarded by the Congressional Black Caucus, among centrists and within progressive circles, according to people familiar with the effort. Their first choice was a legislator from Mrs. Pelosi's home state: Rep. Karen Bass.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi's opponents knew they had an opportunity. But what they really needed was an alternative...When efforts by Moulton and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) to recruit Bass sputtered, they moved on to other younger stars of the Democratic caucus — including Reps. Joe Kennedy III (Mass.), Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) and Cheri Bustos (Ill.). But rather than take on Pelosi, they all chose to bide their time and pursue more-junior positions.
As Members of Congress, we have a duty to provide oversight on the executive branch. There is no place in the world right now where oversight matters more. We conducted this visit in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand.
'They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans — while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk — so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.'
Two congressmen who made an unauthorized trip to the airport in Kabul last week defended themselves on Sunday amid accusations that their visit was an unwelcome distraction from the evacuation effort. "Those accusations are just not true,' one of the congressmen, Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Moulton represents one of the more moderate districts in deep blue Massachusetts and has long been tipped for higher office. But he came under intense criticism after the 2018 midterms, when he tried to oust House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Democratic leadership.
one of Moulton’s biggest focuses is addressing the long-term impact of automation on the economy, which he says will disproportionately affect working-class communities. His answer to the expected crisis is re-education...As a member of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, Moulton backed a broad plan unveiled by the group of moderates last May to address technology’s effects on the workforce.
the centrist New Democrat Coalition...traces its roots to the Democratic Leadership Council, created in the 1980s in reaction to Ronald Reagan’s drubbing of Walter Mondale — which many Democrats blamed on the party’s leftward drift.
'A lot of people are standing on factory floors right now not worried that their manager is going to replace them with an immigrant...They’re worried their manager is going to replace them with a robot. And that’s what we gotta be talking about.'
...my administration would re-engage in the TPP negotiations, focusing on strengthening labor and environmental standards. The goal must be to conclude a strong, fair trade deal for the Pacific on our terms, not China's.
'You have to have a comprehensive strategy, and I'm not saying tariffs shouldn’t be an option on the table, and that means that we actually build our alliances in the Pacific,' Moulton explained.
Illegal immigration is an issue and Democrats have to admit that it is something that we have to confront.