It would seem that in order to become a viable Democratic candidate in Massachusetts, you need to do at least two things: open a campaign account with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and hold forth in the living room of a certain Lower Mills home to begin to get your message out to the grassroots.
Juliette Kayyem — who formally announced her candidacy for governor on Wednesday morning— can cross both off her gubernatorial bucket list this week.
On Sunday night, the former Boston Globe columnist and Homeland Security adviser for President Barack Obama introduced herself to about 30 dedicated Democrats at the Adams Street home of Joyce Linehan. Kayyem’s comments focused on her biography, philosophy and experience working for both Gov. Deval Patrick and Obama.
“I spent most of my career in public service, working for two presidents and this governor, and have spent most of my time defending the homeland,” Kayyem said.
According to her biographical listing on the Harvard Kennedy School website, Kayyem is currently a lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a CNN national security analyst. In 2009, Kayyem was appointed Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Programs by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Prior to her federal appointment, Kayyem served as the state’s first Undersecretary for Homeland Security when Patrick named her to the post in 2007.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Kayyem focused on coordinating the efforts of multiple governmental agencies when responding to critical incidents in both positions. In her role working for the Obama Administration, Kayyem worked in the aftermath of disasters like the BP oil spill and the Haiti earthquake, as well as contributed to the security efforts surrounding several large sporting events.
The daughter of Lebanese-born parents, Kayyem started her legal career working with Patrick at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division during the Clinton administration.
Kayyem has yet to decide whether to fully throw her hat into the gubernatorial ring and says she is still exploring the possibility of a candidacy. She opened a candidate’s committee account with the OCPF Tuesday, making the first formal move toward a full campaign. According to Harvard’s catalog, Kayyem is scheduled to teach “The Management of Crises Response” and “The U.S. Homeland Security Enterprise” at the Kennedy School in the spring semester.
When discussing her political philosophy, Kayyem said she believes in government and it’s capacity to do good and work for its citizens. Having dedicated her work to preparing for and responding to attacks or disasters, Kayyem holds a philosophy of preparedness in her approach to governing.
“I don’t do luck. I do preparation and alertness. That’s what matters,” she said.
Kayyem addressed job creation, state competitiveness, public schools, climate change and more during her hour-long talk and question-and-answer session. Beyond the established industries of education, life sciences and health care, Kayyem emphasized the need for transportation infrastructure, especially new port facilities and activity, as key to the state’s future.
“I want to fund everything that’s progressive and good... but we don’t have the money for it now,” she said.
Michelle Caldeira, a nonprofit employee from Jamaica Plain, said she felt Kayyem’s experience qualifies her for to be governor but hasn’t heard enough from any of the potential or declared candidates to determine the field’s command of the issues. Caldeira said she liked the way Kayyem pushed back against one commenter during the Q&A who compared major media organizations to terrorism. Kayyem disputed that the label of “terrorist” should be applied to anyone beyond violent attackers.
Paul Nutting of Dorchester said after Kayyem’s talk that he heard many generalities but not specific plans. Nutting did however like Kayyem’s ideas about climate change preparedness and infrastructure.
When asked how she would run a general election campaign against a potentially formidable Republican candidate, Kayyem appeared genuinely surprised by the hypothetical and asked which Republican the questioner thought would be the GOP nominee. When Charlie Baker, the 2010 Republican candidate who lost to Patrick by about six percentage points was mentioned, Kayyem said she would utilize a grassroots strategy emphasizing progress, similar to the winning playbooks of Patrick, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Ed Markey.
Linehan has hosted other Democratic gubernatorial candidates at her home this year. Former Obama medicare and medicaid director Donald Berwick appeared there in February before he formally declared his run. Treasurer Steve Grossman and Cape Cod state senator Dan Wolf have also visited Linehan’s house.