Juliette Kayyem on campaign trail

Juliette Kayem on the mic (Photo: Boston Herald)

Juliette Kayem on the mic (Photo: Boston Herald)

Tonight I was invited to a home fundraiser/meet and greet with Democratic MA Governor candidate Juliette Kayyem. Not content merely to leverage her name recognition off the local favorite hot dog brand (like Juliette, the product of hard-working immigrants), she is pushing an outsider candidacy against two leading Dem incumbents who personify traditional Mass politics. I was impressed and will definitely be supporting her through the primary and general.

Kayyem is very much representative of my segment of Massachusetts. Though born out of state, she went to college and law school here (“at a school near Boston”) and started a career in civil rights law–helping un-“save the males” by fighting to integrate women into the Virginia Military Institute–before moving into domestic security roles in both the Mass. Governor’s office and also in Obama’s Department of Homeland Security. She is from a Christian Lebanese family, but married a Jewish guy and is raising three kids in the Jewish tradition.

All good, but what really struck me about Kayyem was her emphasis on preparedness as an overarching theme for her governance approach, and how she differentiated herself from old-school Mass pols. Kayyem started her pitch by talking about her belief in the ability of government to have a constructive and positive role in our communities–always refreshing to hear in today’s national context. She drew on her experiences to talk about how Massachusetts needs to position itself globally, i.e. by making sure it has the broadband and ports infrastructure to connect our companies/people to the world, while also addressing climate change by preparing (for rising sea levels) and simultaneously changing behaviors/energy sources. Democratic candidates have often justified these sorts of investments and policies as necessary steps towards liberal ideals, and I know Kayyem shares some of that idealism. But she represents a new Obama-era Democrat who is able to draw on science and public/private experience to make this case, and that is a smart approach that appeals to me.

And she closed her pitch by saying that she is having some outsider first-campaign success against two frontrunners, Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman, and that she will win through people believing that they can help shape their state government. That meant something to me, as I have had to seal my whole nose with duct tape to pull the Dem lever for machine politicians in several Mass. elections. Sometimes in the globally-oriented environs of MIT and our little suburban bubble, you can forget just how parochial Massachusetts and its politics have been for centuries, but that is the fight Kayyem is in for this race. I hope she can prevail.

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