NORTH ANDOVER -- A hotel magnate and self described political outsider has joined the race to fill the open 3rd Congressional District seat in 2018.
Abhijit "Beej" Das would bristle at the comparison to the nation's most famous hotelier, President Donald Trump.
The congressional hopeful, originally a North Andover resident who just changed zip codes to Lowell, would rather compare himself to the likes of Tip O'Neill, and the man who once represented the region he's now vying for, the late Paul Tsongas.
Das, a "big tent Democrat" whose "defining political philosophy is economic progress," announced in late September his candidacy for the 3rd District seat that will be vacated when Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, retires next year.
He joins seven other Democrats who have already either formally announced or are testing the waters to run, and two Republican challengers.
The Democrats include Lori Trahan of Lowell, former Washington chief of staff to former Congressman Marty Meehan; Daniel Koh, who worked previously for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and is returning to his hometown of Andover, Lawrence state Rep. Juana Matias, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster and Nadeem Mazen, a former Cambridge City Councilor who grew up in Andover and is returning to his hometown. State Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, is also exploring a run for the seat. Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini is widely expected to make a bid as well.
On the Republican side, Pepperell businessman Rick Green and former Navy pilot Scott Gunderson of Groton are also mounting runs for the 3rd District seat.
The 44-year old Das was born in Woburn, and grew up in North Andover. He went to Brooks School, studied political science at Middlebury College in Vermont, and took two semesters of classes at UMass Lowell, where his mother Professor Mitra Das is in her 45th year teaching sociology.
Das obtained a law degree from the University of Michigan, and said he spent almost a decade as a lawyer before becoming Hilton hotels' Senior Director of Development in South Asia. He left that position having signed or launched 28 hotels in South Asia in a five year period.
His most recent endeavor is his own hotel company, Troca Hotels, which he said focuses on community-based revitalization and rehabilitating old hotels, like Stonehedge Hotel & Spa in Tyngsboro.
"One of the reasons I started my company, is I didn't see a company doing what we wanted to do," Das said, a sentiment that has motivated him in this political endeavor as well.
"It gives me the ability to put my own skin in here, not only financial resources but also put my life into this process. I'm not saying, hey listen I'm going to help somebody else do it, I'm saying I'm going to try and do it, please join me so we can do it together."
Das said his main focus is economic development in the region.
"We need somebody who understands that the future economy of not only this district but this country is going to be different than it has been in the past," he said.
"This region was born on manufacturing ... we were really key in the industrial revolution. That has changed," he said. "The question is where will our jobs come from. I think to focus on economic development for the entire region is so critical. I'm a business friendly, small-business Democrat. I believe regulations on small businesses are onerous."
Das said he hopes the open seat election, despite its many aspirants, will allow him to run an issues-based campaign focused on "social justice, economic progress, and fairness."
Throughout his campaign, Das said he wants to spend time in every municipality, listening to constituents, and even set up a hotline where people can call in and voice concerns.
"If at the end of the day, even if all that fails, if we do a couple good things for people in the district, I'll feel it's been worth it," he said. "And if we win, we can continue doing the work we started."