, Newburyport, MA

January 10, 2014

Kayyem courts local Democrats

Gubernatorial candidate touts experience in Homeland Security


---- — NEWBURYPORT — Political campaigns often conclude with rousing televised ceremonies in colorful public arenas, but they sometimes start on dark, cold nights in public buildings with a little parking lot.

Democrat Juliette Kayyem is running for governor, and this week she visited local Democrats at the public library. Each local Democrat who stamped their feet when entering the library bemoaned the frigid weather, and their journey was only a matter of minutes.

Imagine the experience for Kayyem, a Cambridge resident who has never run for office, traversing the North Shore in a search of delegates during an aggressive cold snap that could have frightened a snowbank.

“My job now is to meet people in the hope of getting delegates this spring,” said Kayyem, a Harvard-educated lawyer who has worked in the administrations of both President Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick.

“I’ve been in government, but I haven’t been in politics or run for election,” she said.

Party candidates for governor are decided by a vote of delegates. The statewide Democrats are scheduled to meet in Worcester Friday and Saturday, June 13 and June 14, to make a choice.

Prior to that oft-chaotic session, community Democratic parties from around the state meet candidates as a means for making their choices.

The Newburyport Democratic City Committee will caucus on Saturday, March 1, to choose delegates who will have votes at the statewide gathering, said Ed Cameron, a city councilor who heads the local city committee.

Kayyem said she needs to win 15 percent of delegate votes at the state level in order to be listed on the ballot on the state primary.

Kayyem was the first aspirant to visit the local Democrats, Cameron said. Other Democrats who have announced their interest in the governor’s office include state Treasurer Steve Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Cameron said that he expects more candidates, such as Grossman and Coakley, to check in with the local committee in coming weeks.

Kayyem, 44, is a lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

In the past, she has been assistant secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to this federal position, she served as the state’s first undersecretary for Homeland Security, where she was responsible for developing statewide policy on homeland security, with a focus on preventing, responding to and recovering from critical incidents.

“I have worked on the state and federal levels, breaking down barriers so people can work together,” said Kayyem, born in Los Angeles to Lebanese-Christian parents.

“I have skills and tools that are important today — making government work even if there is a crisis situation.”

Kayyem indicated she is a supporter of issues such as an increase in the minimum wave, a job-training initiative to assure there is employment for all and an aggressive civil-rights initiative that will ensure equal treatment.

Though short on political experience, she said her background on security issues will be an asset if she is the next governor.

“People in Massachusetts want to be as prepared as we can be,” said Kayyem, the mother of three. “My background will be to bring people to the table to discusses the tough issues, and to develop programs that will benefit all in the future.”