Juliette Kayyem should be the next Governor of Massachusetts. Among all the candidates, she offers the most thoughtful, creative and inspiring thinking about the direction the Commonwealth should take. And, unlike the other leading candidates, the office is not simply the next step in a career. Instead, Juliette wants to be Governor because she perceives an opportunity to make the Commonwealth a better place to live for all of our citizens. Poll numbers say that too many of us still don’t know who she is. So, by way of this blog, I offer a brief introduction and then a more fulsome explanation of my strong support of her candidacy.
Juliette brings a wide range of experience to her campaign. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Juliette joined the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice, where she worked for not-yet Governor Patrick. She later served in his administration in the Department of Homeland Security. She left that post to join the Obama administration, also serving in Homeland Security. In that job, she was responsible (among other things) for taking charge of the government’s response to the BP oil spill. She then returned to Massachusetts, where she taught at the Kennedy School, worked as a columnist for the Boston Globe (she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), and served as a CNN commentator (including being a voice of reason throughout Anderson Cooper’s coverage of the Marathon bombings).
Juliette believes in government’s capacity to do good. I can think of no more important quality in someone who wants to lead a government, and no other reason to be involved in politics. Ultimately, politics is about possibility and leadership is about finding meaning in that possibility. Juliette wants to improve our government and believes that it can, among other things, better educate our youth (beginning with universal pre-kindergarten), encourage people who go to school here to stay here and build their careers and families (her program is called “start up and stay”), and engage meaningfully with challenges posed by the realities of climate change so that our state can prepare and prosper.
Real leaders also have the courage to speak for those whose cause is important, but not popular. Juliette believes in criminal justice reform. Specifically, she thinks that we should not be sending people to jail for crimes that are symptoms of addiction. Instead, she favors treating addiction and helping people make their way back from the edge and into the workforce. Her willingness to speak in support of such change is testament to her political courage — the kind of courage that is a meaningful differentiator in politics.
The thinking, some of it described above, that Juliette has put into her policies shows not only creativity and courage, but an energetic approach to the challenges that face the Commonwealth. And her energy is alone testament to what kind of leader she will be. Consider the campaign itself: in less than a year, Juliette developed sufficient grass-roots support across the Commonwealth to finish second in the caucuses among committed delegates (Grossman was first). The only way to do that is by being everywhere and by wining support everywhere you go — and Juliette has been constantly on the move since the day she announced her candidacy. That constant effort is paying off, and that energy (which augments her natural charisma) will translate into the kind of momentum that elects good people in Massachusetts (think Deval Patrick and Elizabeth Warren).
Politics, though, is also about competition and it wouldn’t be right for me to not also say that my support for Juliette comes from a very competitive place. I really don’t want to go back to a time when our Governor seemed inevitably to be a nice-enough seeming moderate-ish Republican. And I am completely persuaded that nominating any of the other Democratic candidates will give Charlie Baker a very serious chance of winning.
We have lived through an important election with Martha Coakley at the top of the ticket, and it did not turn out well. Although Scott Brown is now New Hampshire’s problem, The Coakley for Governor campaign already serves as a reminder of why he was elected to the Senate here. I am a real admirer of Steve Grossman’s. By way of confession, I ran for delegate to the state convention, committed to Steve, when he ran for Governor the first time. I do not believe, however, that he can inspire the kind of impassioned effort at the grass-roots that we will need to win this election. Obama is not at the top of the ticket this time around. The nominee simply has to be able to generate passion among voters. Juliette can do that; the others cannot. If the party nominates Coakley or Grossman, I will (of course) support them, but I supported Shannon O’Brien for similar reasons and remember very clearly how that turned out.
One story to demonstrate what I mean. The College Democrats gathered in Western Massachusetts and heard from all of the candidates. Afterwards, they took a straw poll. Juliette won — by a two to one margin. Ultimately, enthusiasm among young voters translates into volunteers, and that translates into turnout and that leads to victory. By that standard, that straw poll is the single most important comparative signal to date in this race and it points in only one direction.
That is the logic behind my support, but politics is never just about logic (or even policy). The best leaders inspire us and make us believe that working with them and with each other will actually improve our world. Juliette is that kind of leader — and that kind of leader turns our collective belief into policies and laws that make things better for future generations. I have watched her talk to lots of groups and to lots of people, and I have seen her listen to groups and to individuals, and I can report that she generates enthusiasm and excitement wherever she goes. Her innate ability to inspire, combined with her intelligence, creativity and courage, make her a genuinely singular candidate. She will be a remarkable Governor. Let’s help her win.