BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
4:31 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Gov. Candidate Juliette Kayyem: 'I Don't Do Red-Meat Politics'

Juliette Kayyem stopped by Studio Three for a second conversation with Jim and Margery about her run for governor.
Credit New America Foundation / Flickr

Juliette Kayyem sat down with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan for round two of our interviews with Mass. gubernatorial candidates. Kayyem talked about her voting record, prison reform, and many other things.

Juliette Kayyem is a former administrator in the Department of Homeland Security. She's worked in Gov. Patrick's and Pres. Obama's administrations, and was a regular columnist for the Boston Globe.

The following questions were edited for clarity, and Kayyem's responses were edited where noted with the following: (...).

Do you think the specter of Pres. Bill Clinton's dalliances with Monica Lewinsky will affect Sec. Hillary Clinton's run for presidency, if she runs in 2016?

No, not at all. Hillary has her own career, and every woman should be judged by who they are. She was an amazing secretary of state, and a committed senator, so let's just judge her on her own merits. If she decides to run — I mean, we're still not even there yet.

Lewinsky ended up getting branded with the scarlet letter, right?

It never clicked for her. (…) I was working for the Clinton administration at the time, and you don’t want to go back there. It was so vicious for Lewinsky. (…) Nothing can brace you for the public-ness of a lot of these issues. Obviously, that’s a little bit different than a campaign, but it never did click for her, right?

She could’ve been a character on “House of Cards,” right?

She is! (laughs)

What did Clinton do well as Secretary of State?

This administration followed the Bush administration, which viewed everything through the prism of war, with-us-or-against-us. She brought the State Department back into the dialogue — whether it was about women’s issues, girl’s issues, the Middle East, climate change — diplomacy became a tool again that this nation used. And having her at the forefront of it was really important. (…) We had forgotten that diplomacy is what makes America great. It’s not just war.

You have to get 15 percent of delegates at the Democratic convention in June. Are you getting those delegates?

Yes, we are feeling very good. I’ve been in this 6 months. We had a two-part strategy: it was fundraising of course because that’s how people like you [in the media] judge me about whether I can sustain a campaign, and field [operations]. We didn’t worry about name recognition, and it’s delivered. We feel very confident I’ll be on the ballot on my own. (…)

I need to do it on my own, and that’s really important to me, but it’s also really important because right after that is a primary with [Attorney General] Martha Coakley and [Treasurer] Steve Grossman.

We do not need a course correction after this governor. We just need to keep pushing.

Steve Grossman is the one who may give you his delegates. Why would he do that? Because then you’d have the ‘two women’ thing you say doesn’t matter?

I’m not being judged as sort of the ‘other woman’ compared to Coakley. I am the new-generation candidate who represents a different way of approaching politics, and who’s had senior-executive experience in both state and federal government. Just judge me on that.

Why are you the best of the five candidates?

Because I bring an approach to government that is unique. I’ve had senior leadership roles both in progressive politics – civil rights attorney – as well as Homeland Security. The future of Massachusetts is about making this state the most welcoming, prepared, and connected state, and that takes leadership skills about working with 351 cities and towns, working up and down the aisle of secretariats and different parties. And that’s what I’ve done my career, and that’s what Massachusetts needs. Look, we do not need a course correction after this governor. We just need to keep pushing, and the obligation of my generation is to keep pushing.

Globe writer Adrian Walker called the medical marijuana rollout a fiasco. What would you do as governor right now about it some of these applicants?

They’re out. If you’ve lied on your application, or if there are such egregious conflicts of interest that something as serious as the dispensary of medical marijuana is put into question, yeah. (…)

How about the Commissioner of Public Health not mentioning her connections to William Delahunt?

I think that is a serious conflict, and the burden is on her to prove that she had nothing to do with those applications. Period.

What about Delahunt? Should he prove there was no quid pro quo as well?

Yeah, I think that’s right. Because transparency in this process is essential -- whether it’s campaigns, campaign finance, medical marijuana – otherwise people lose faith in government. It seems to me (…) that a couple of the applications were clear, flat-out, flagrant, disingenuous statements.

What about DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett -- who previously held fundraisers for Delahunt. Should she go?

That depends on when did she disclose the conflict.

Late in the process.

Did she actually have nothing to do with it? I think we need to assess that. If she says she had nothing to do it then let’s assess it. (…) It’s contingent on the Governor or her to say why it wasn’t a conflict -- you get this about me, I sometimes get accused that some things aren’t black-and-white to me, I don’t do red-meat politics – but it can get complicated. The burden is on government to show there was no conflict. (…) Also, can I just be clear? If you lie on the application you’re out.

Gov. Patrick has defended DCF chief Olga Roche. What do you do about her?

First of all, there’s only one governor at a time. (…) I do not believe getting rid of Olga solves systemic problems we all know are happening at DCF. We have two priorities here, and this is how I’ve always approached it: it’s about the children, (…) [and] it’s also about the workers at DCF.

There are hundreds of people at DCF who are doing work that you and I could not do. They are making decisions about children and families that are horrible in every instance. You don’t get within that system if things are rosy.

And so, I want to make sure also that you have a system that is working, and that the systemic changes that are going to be part of this review last into the future.

I have not gotten into the debate that either the Attorney General or Charlie Baker have gotten into. I have supported the review because the obligation we have to the children is to fix it today, but also to fix it for the future. (…) We’ll get nasty in the campaign, I know it, but this one is just hard. (…)

What do you do for job creation on day one, if you’re governor?

We know now that we’re going to have a gap between what the needs are for our economy to grow — 20,000 or 30,000 jobs — and what are community college [and] high school [students] are being trained for. And that gap is known by the state, it’s known by the university system. (…) That’s why my education plan doesn’t just focus on universal pre-K, but on terms of community colleges and high schools, giving workforce development skills, so that those jobs can be satisfied here. (…)

But, looking to the future of Massachusetts (…) how do I as governor get, and compete with 49 other governors the jobs that will come here and stay here, and be particularly Massachusetts jobs? Whether it’s biotech or tech, infrastructure or education, healthcare. That may include tax breaks, right? I’m for that as a Democrat if I can lure businesses here.

But it also includes investments in infrastructure, because I can’t lure businesses to Western Massachusetts if I don’t have broadband. I can’t get a strong commercial maritime community at our ports unless my ports are ready for it. So you have to think about infrastructure and workforce development as being the backbone about what it is to be business-friendly in the state.

Do you mean tax breaks for individual companies, or more generic tax breaks?

It depends. I have this in terms of green energy, because anyone who follows my campaign knows I’ve been pushing for criminal justice reform and climate change adaptation issues.

So, one of my proposals is a “green bank.” One of the benefits of me having been to 44 other states is that we can learn from them. (…) Gov. Cuomo and other governors are proposing green banks, which would be tax breaks but also investments, bonds, whatever it might be to industries related to climate change, distribution of wind or solar storage — things that are related to making this state a better state for green energy.

If an company approaches you and says I’ll move to Mass. if you give me the biggest tax break, what do you say?

I need to look, as a governor, and I’ve done this before in other executive roles. The totality of the circumstances – how bad do I want that industry? Will it actually employ residents of Massachusetts? What clawback provisions can I get in the contract because, if they don’t deliver they’re giving the money back.

There are opportunities. I mean, don’t look at it as picking winners and losers. It is creating opportunities for the citizens of Massachusetts. I’m not putting anything “off the table.”

One of Gov. Patrick’s early ideas was to propose free community college. Do you support that idea?

If we can afford it, absolutely. In some instances individual classes can be. It may not be that the model for workforce development is a graduate degree at a residential college. The experience that you and I had might be over, or it might be limited to a minority of folks. As I’ve said, I’m not the red-meat candidate. I’m not going to propose anything that I actually can’t afford.

But, the focus on community colleges as being about the future of workforce development in our state is an idea that the Governor has, and anyone who looks at the numbers will have. And it’s not just our 18-year-olds. It’s our veterans returning. It’s people coming out of the criminal justice system who – if we don’t get them skills, they’re back in jail, period. It’s as easy as that.

People say Massachusetts has these progressive ideals. That is not true. Compared to other states, including conservative states, we put too many people in jail.

What would you do about criminal justice reform?

There’s nothing about our criminal justice system that’s progressive. So, people say Massachusetts has these progressive ideals – that is not true. Compared to other states, including conservative states, we put too many people in jail – especially for nonviolent offenses, and categories of people, drug offenders, veterans – in numbers that are just not rational, let alone humane.

The experience in jail is not about corrections, it’s about whatever-it-is, right? So we’re not giving them the skills, family unification, and so that when they get out, they’re back in, chances are -- 50 percent [of inmates]. What we can learn from other states is, you put fewer people in jail [and] you reduce the burden on the corrections system. (…)

It’s the obligation of everyone in the system to say the system is broken. This is where a Democrat like me will get bipartisan support for this, because the numbers are ridiculous.

MassInc has a budget review that says the next governor will likely have to commit a billion dollars by 2020 for prison construction alone. I’m not going to do it. If I’m governor that’s just too depressing, [and] it’s not the future of our state. (…)

If you can get someone who’s been out of jail back to the table, back in our communities within three to six months, the chance of recidivism reduce by about 50 percent.

Should we fingerprint teachers? There was a story recently in the Globe about doing something like this in Mass.

I don’t see the security reason for it, I really don’t. First of all, we have a pretty extensive CORI system in our state. I know this as a parent. I have three kids. I can’t go on a field trip [before] I fill out a CORI form.

Because I have been in state government, I know that we are a home-rule state, and there may be mayors and school districts who want it. So I can stand here and say, I don’t get it, but I also want to respect what individual jurisdictions might deem appropriate, and work with them. (…)

You didn’t vote in 2010 when Charlie Baker ran against Gov. Patrick, or when Scott Brown ran against AG Martha Coakley. You were in DC?

I screwed up. Guess what? I will screw up again, and I will fess up to it. Look, I was in DC. [Massachusetts] has always been home, we rented our house here, I reserved a spot for the kids in their public school here. David, my husband [who] teaches at Harvard Law School, was on sabbatical. This is home. I forgot to request absentee ballots in 2010 at those times. There’s no excuse. I moved three kids, I was dealing with Haiti and BP oil spill and all sorts of mayhem.

I moved three kids, I was dealing with Haiti and BP oil spill and all sorts of mayhem. It is not an excuse, it is an explanation. But I screwed up.

It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation, but I screwed up. And I regret it because (…) I believe in service and I believe in the democratic process. I want people to judge me on the totality of both my voting record, and my public service. (…) And that’s how you should judge anyone. No one’s perfect, and this one was not a great deal. I believe in voting.

The Globe article about your voting said you were registering your kids for public school in DC. Were you sending them to public schools in DC?

I was, I’m committed to public schools. I’m committed to public schools as a governor and a mother – two of my kids are in public school now. (…)

When you get the phone call in October 2008 from a not-yet-President’s team – this was the transition team – as you’re sitting with your husband in “High School Musical 3” watching a movie – that says, Can you come down to DC to help with the transition? Nothing was smooth about it, but once again, not an excuse. I should have asked for the absentee ballot.

When the Globe came calling about your voting record, the initial response by your spokesperson was, ‘I’m pretty sure she voted in DC,’ which wasn’t true. How did you feel about your spokesperson saying that?

I misspoke!

You were the source of that quote?

Yeah. This is what I have learned – I always talk about ‘lessons learned.’ Don’t assume you know everything about yourself. I know that this is always home, Massachusetts. We never vacated here forever. This is the same issue that other governors have faced. I don’t know what I assumed.

So the lesson learned for me was to tell my press secretary, Don’t believe every word I say. Double-check, get the book, do the facts.

Would you vote for a repeal of the casino law?

I’m against the repeal.

Why?

Because the creation of the budget that this governor passes onto the next governor – whether it’s Charlie Baker or a Democrat – envisions over $100 million already in casino funding through certification and other things already going on. I can’t replace it yet.

So, while it may be popular amongst a certain part of my party, I’m pretty honest that I won’t promise anything on the campaign that I can’t deliver on day one. I can’t replace that money unless I promise a whole restructuring of our budget, which I can’t do on day one.

Do we worry we’re over-relying on casinos, lottery and gambling revenue in general?

It’s something that I’ll continue to assess. As I say on the campaign trail there’s no finish line. You’re just constantly assessing and learning. But let me just be clear about the casinos – because I have looked at other states. (…)

[The Massachusetts casino process] maxes out with three statewide. It involves a commission that we were talking about with rigorous oversight, and community involvement.

I know a lot of analysts say, Look how messy the casino thing is, or whatever. Messiness was envisioned by the statute – that there would be community involvement, fighting, compromise, allegations of conflicts of interest. Anyone who’s been in government – anyone who’s just an adult in society – recognizes that is just the messiness of democracy.

If East Boston votes no on a casino, and Revere votes yes, then East Boston gets a bad deal due to spillover traffic. How is that equitable?

In some ways it may not be. As I said, we’ll learn from this process. The revenues that are being generated for the state are going to public safety of surrounding communities. The distribution of those public safety funds can be set by the next governor. That’s the nature of deciding where the community begins and ends, and it’s not going to make anyone perfectly happy. (…) All I can do as a governor – and certainly what I can do as candidate – is to say, on balance, given the pros and cons, and given that the world tends to be more gray than black and white – this is where I stand.

Should we legalize marijuana? You have admitted to inhaling when you were younger.

[Should I answer] as citizen, or governor? I am as governor very comfortable not being at the forefront of this. The reason why is, Colorado and [Washington] are in the middle of very different planning going on. You have to understand the difference between how those states chose, and which one may be better. One allows for home growth, the other has a highly regulated system.

They are allowed to go forward only because the Justice Department says, Okay, let’s see how this goes. So, there could be a new Attorney General if there is a new president. There are so many variables that I want to learn from them. I’m not going to sit here and say, This is absolutely going to happen. Those governors in those states let the referendum process run its course, and then determined how the state would do it.

There are so many variables. I want to learn. I’m not ideologically opposed or for it, and it’s so serious. This is an issue [where] history is clearly moving in a direction. Does Massachusetts need to be at the forefront of it? Well, I’d like to learn from [other states].

You know, home growth (…) is very different from a regulated storefront. Both states are figuring out which one might be better or worse.

I’m sorry we’ve run out of time, so we won’t be able to ask you whether there’s room for two women to run in this election!

That is so 2013! (laughs)

>> Listen to the entire BPR interview with Juliette Kayyem.

Juliette Kayyem on BPR

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