By Mike Deehan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Days removed from failing at the state Democratic Convention to earn the minimum amount of support to appear on the primary election ballot, former candidate for governor Juliette Kayyem is weighing whether to endorse in a race she says will be a tough one for Democrats.
Kayyem said she has spoken to each of the three candidates who survived Saturday's convention in Worcester - Treasurer Steven Grossman, Attorney General Martha Coakley and former Medicare administrator Donald Berwick - about her future and the possibility of winning her support.
"This is going to be a hard year for Democrats throughout the country. I think the state is no different. What we represent, what Martha, Steve and Don represent, may not be exactly what I represented, but it is a lot closer than what the other side represents," Kayyem said during an interview with the News Service Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol Coffee House.
Kayyem urged the Democrats still in the race to not take anything for granted and to focus on Charlie Baker, the leading GOP candidate in the race.
"Ultimately . . . it's about Charlie. It's not about Martha, Steve, Juliette, Don or Joe [Avellone]. It's about making the party the strongest against Charlie Baker," Kayyem said.
The former homeland security aide to President Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick thinks she may be more useful to the party by organizing supporters than by endorsing one of the candidates.
"I want to be most helpful to getting a Democrat in the Corner Office. I'm not sure endorsing anyone would be best for them as compared to, you know, staying engaged and getting people out and helping with deficiencies in whoever" becomes the Democratic nominee, she said.
"There's a part of our party and a part of the independents, the unenrolled, that we need to energize - and I didn't get there - but I will help the next governor get there," she said.
Kayyem said there isn't anything the candidates need to do to win her endorsement and that she just needs to make the decision to endorse.
"I really like them all. Everyone was very respectful of me even when, arguably, I was the most, you know, sort of aggressive in the race," she said.
Kayyem said she's been in touch with senior members of the Democratic Party about her future and is not ruling out another run for public office. Another candidacy is "not at the forefront of" her mind, "but definitely something I would consider again," she said.
The party's convention rule that candidates must obtain 15 percent of the delegates' votes in order to be on the ballot in the fall was criticized by the other candidate to fall out of the race, pharmaceutical executive Avellone. Kayyem supported the rule before her loss and stands by the process now.
"For me, live or die by the fifteen percent. We didn't do it," she said, adding that her campaign started too late to introduce herself properly to Democratic delegates.
Kayyem said she did not take part in any backroom dealing at the convention, but doesn't think the other candidates were in secret negotiations over delegates and positioning.
"Everyone had an incentive to do it on their own, I believe. Steve, to look as strong as he did. Martha, to come in second. Berwick, Avellone and I to get our 15 percent," Kayyem said.
When asked if she thought the other candidates may have been making deals and trading delegates, Kayyem at first offered a joking response.
"Obviously it didn't work for me, because I didn't get anything from Grossman," Kayyem said with a laugh.
"Think about it, does Grossman really want me on the ballot? . . . I never got that theory," she said.
"I knew what I was trying to do was hard because I wasn't the most progressive. I wasn't the only woman. I had no geographic base. I had no institutional base. I had sheer force of a campaign and personality. I got 12 percent, you know? I'm not going to live my life focused on the three percent, I'm going to say, 'well, we did something at 12,'" Kayyem said.
The candidate claims she was shocked, but not surprised, by the vote's outcome. Earlier in the day, her campaign made note of the number of delegates entering the DCU Center in Worcester and began to realize there may not be enough Kayyem supporters to add up to 15 percent. The Worcester convention hosted 4,609 registered delegates on Saturday, according to Democratic Party officials.
Kayyem sees her impact on the race as influencing the debate on criminal justice reform, veterans care and committing to a global role for the commonwealth. She said Democrats need to present answers to the problems facing the state because their opponents will have solutions of their own to offer.
"The ways of answering the dilemma will be part of this conversation only because it will be part of Charlie's conversation," Kayyem said.