“I am not a career politician. I don’t believe in luck, I believe in preparedness. I will make sure that Massachusetts is ready for whatever comes our way.”
— Juliette Kayyem, Massachusetts governor’s race campaign video.
Juliette Kayyem (regularly quoted by myself on this blog to be clear about my biases) has held the posts of homeland security adviser in Massachusetts and Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in DHS (as well as civil rights lawyer in DOJ and terrorism scholar at Harvard). Earlier today she officially announced that she was joining the race to succeed Deval Patrick as governor of Massachusetts.
The political horse race and bipartisan-type politics aside, what might be relevant to this blog is the fact she could be very well be the first “resilience” candidate for major office, and certainly one of the few with such a homeland security-heavy resume earned before running.
There have been two governors selected as DHS Secretary. Countless lawyers, and certainly a host of district attorney/prosecutor types in the mold of former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have been elected to various offices. Yet these have been either candidates experienced in law enforcement before winning office or gained homeland security positions afterwards.
Sitting officials often strongly and intelligently respond to events. Current NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Christie both made smart decisions during and following Superstorm Sandy. The cluster*** that was Katrina aside, at all levels of government and both sides of the political divide, I would wager that many of the Gulf Coast governors and mayors understand the issues well, as do their counterparts in Tornado Alley and California. Former Florida Jeb Bush, for example, is very likely able to delve deeply into a host of homeland security and resilience-related issues.
Juliette, however, brings a breadth and depth of homeland security experience earned before running for elected office I haven’t noticed in previous political candidates. Though I would be happy to hear that I’m wrong. And she has apparently also been writing a book on resilience.
That work sounds like it’s surfacing in her soundbites:
“Whether the challenge comes from economic hardship, violence, illness, global climate change or the increasingly complex world our children will inherit, the measure of us as a people comes down to how well we prepare and protect each other.”
“It’s really about not wishing for the past, not thinking about what might have been, but how Massachusetts should be — and preparing for that. And that’s what I’ve done all my career.”
In a half-hour telephone interview with the Globe, she said that her campaign will focus on integrating technology into education; developing the state’s infrastructure, from ports to broadband to clean energy; and focusing on how to make the state adaptable to the consequences of climate change.
“Any governor who is going to lead in the next four, eight years has to take climate adaptation exceptionally seriously: we are a coastal state,” she said.
I think it will be interesting to see if this type of frame helps get her message across. It will be even more interesting if she wins to observe what type of resilience-related policies get enacted. Whether or not she ends up being successful in her quest, I hope she inspires other aspiring politicians of both parties to embrace this approach.
Postscript (warning – political video in the hole): If my argument hasn’t been persuasive, you can watch Juliette’s inaugural video spot below and on her website. The homeland security/resilience message and imagery seems sprinkled throughout – or maybe I’m just hoping?