Lisa Jeanne Graf joins race for Suffolk 8th District state rep seat

For longtime Fenway resident Lisa Jeanne Graf, her decision to challenge incumbent Rep. Jay Livingstone for the Suffolk 8th District seat comes down to a pending state bill that she believes will provide equal rights for disabled people to safeguard them against physical harm.

Graf,  a Hartford, Conn., native who earned a bachelor’s degree in painting from Mass College of Art and Design in 1988 and has worked as a self-employed commercial and fine artist in the Boston area since then, first became aware about three and a half years ago of an earlier iteration of Bill H.180 ‘An Act regarding the use of aversive therapy,’ which, among other provisions, would prohibit “any program, agency, or facility funded, operated, licensed, or approved by any agency or subdivision of the Commonwealth shall administer or cause to be administered to any person with a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability any procedure which causes obvious signs of physical pain, including, but not limited to, hitting, pinching, and electric shock for the purposes of changing the behavior of the person.”

She immediately picked up the cause in earnest and began lobbying former 9th Suffolk District Rep. Jon Santiago and members of the Boston City Council to support the legislation. (The City Council has since voted by referendum to support the latest legislation, said Graf.)

The current H.180 bill was referred to the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, which is chaired by Rep. Livingstone, in February of 2023 and then out sent to study by the same committee this February.

When she realized that the bill had been sent out to study and wouldn’t be slated for the next legislative session, Graf said she was “upset and then realized I could run against [Rep. Livingstone].”

Graf informally broached the idea of her running for office with other advocates of the bill,  and she said she received a resoundingly positive reponse from them. She officially announced her candidacy in April.

However, Graf is quick to point out that her decision to run for the seat shouldn’t be viewed as any kind of reaction against Rep. Livingstone’s performance in office on her part. (Both Graf and Livingstone are Democrats.)

“He’s great on a lot of issues, but I wanted to push for change on this specific issue,” said Graf, who also earned a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University in 2024.

If elected, Graf said she would also strongly advocate for “human rights for housing, education, health.”

When it comes to affordable housing, Graf, who lives in a mixed income cooperative building in the Fenway with her husband of 33 years and 15-year-old daughter, said she would support rent control. She pointed to a need for the creation of more diverse housing options via the development of more rooming houses, family-sized units, and housing cooperatives.

Graf has also vowed to advocate for increased accessibility on the MBTA, including increasing funding for The Ride – its service which provides door-to-door, shared-ride transpiration for people who can’t use regular T service due to permeant and temporary disabilities –  along with restoring the 55 bus line to full service.

Moreover, Graf said she would support the pending Bill s.1963 ‘An Act to provide sunlight to state government,’ which aims to bring more transparency and accountability to the State House, as well as an elected Boston School Committee, which she believes would allow for increased transparency of Boston Public Schools.

Besides being an established professional artist and longtime activist (and now a political newcomer), Graf has served on the board of the Fensgate Cooperative and the Museum Independent Security Union, as well as on two artist cooperatives and in two Fenway community gardens. She is an active member of Ward 4 and has also served on the Boston Public Schools Wellness Council and the BPS Reimagine School Funding steering committee. She will also begin serving as secretary of BPS SpEdPAC (the Boston Public Schools’ Special Education Parent Advisory Council) next month.

As a self-identified autistic woman, Graf also regularly advocates for neurodiversity affirming supports for students with 504 plans (which prohibit discrimination by federally funded institutions, such as public schools, against individuals with disabilities) and IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans), including overseeing the website, which is funded by a Suffolk University MEEP grant.

For more information on Lisa Jeanne Graf and her campaign, visit

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