Deadlines of All Kinds Loom for State Attorney General
By MAX HART
With less than two months to go before the state primary and only minutes before he is due at a political fundraiser, Massachusetts attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thomas F. Reilly is more worried about his next 24 hours as a Red Sox fan.
"Any trades yet?" Mr. Reilly asked Sunday afternoon, less than one day until Major League Baseball's trading deadline. "Do we have any new pitchers?"
They are fitting questions for a Massachusetts native caught up in the frenzy of one of Boston's biggest sporting attractions. But it happens that Mr. Reilly is also in the thick of the state's other biggest sporting attraction: politics. He is entering the final stretch of his campaign for governor, in which he is seeking the Democratic nomination over fellow candidates Chris Gabrieli and Deval Patrick. This weekend Mr. Reilly was on the Island to raise money for the cause, as well as to visit longtime friend Wayne Budd. On Sunday he sat down with the Gazette on the porch of Mr. Budd's Oak Bluffs home for a brief interview.
"The state is going in the wrong direction," he said. "We've lost 150,000 jobs since 2001, we're 45th in this country in job growth, we're the only state in this entire nation to lose population in the last two years, and many of those who are leaving are between the ages of 25 and 35. They are our future, and our future is literally leaving this state."
The reasons for this decline, he said, rest squarely on the shoulders of the current governor, Mitt Romney, who he said focused too much on presidential ambitions while failing to deliver on his campaign promises.
"The bottom line is that he hasn't gotten the job done," Mr. Reilly said. "He came in and promised to grow this economy and create jobs, and he didn't get that done. He promised to increase the supply of housing in the state and didn't get that done. He's become divisive and partisan. It's time for a governor who's committed and a governor you can count on.
"We've had 16 straight years of Republican governors and not one of them has stayed around long enough to finish the job," he added.
If he sounds like a typical politician bleating out the typical political speech, don't be fooled: Mr. Reilly's passion for the state he has lived in his whole life quietly and quickly comes to the surface, erasing any question of insincerity. Born and raised in Springfield, Mr. Reilly takes pride in his rise to achievement from a difficult childhood. After deciding to continue high school (a decision he says Mr. Budd's father was instrumental in helping him make), he attended American International College before being accepted to Boston College Law School. He went on to work as the Middlesex County district attorney, and has been the chief law enforcement officer in the state since January 1999.
On Sunday, Mr. Reilly talked at length about public education, his personal connection to it and how it has become a cornerstone of his campaign.
"The power of education is something I am a strong believer in - and public education all the way through public higher education is a priority of mine," he said. "There really hasn't been a governor that had public higher education as a priority.
"One of the things I will do is invest $500 million in the research and development capabilities of the University of Massachusetts at all of the campuses, to help them become incubators for creative ideas and turn those ideas into jobs. We need to forecast where this economy is going. I believe the small business sector is the key to our economic growth in Massachusetts. We need identify the companies that are already here - how do we help them grow? What are the things that they need? Is it infrastructure? Is it a workforce?" he said, continuing:
"Our public education system is not aligned with the workforce needs of our economy right now. We have to make sure that happens and we're lacking students coming out of our schools that have degrees in engineering and technology and nursing. There's no alignment."
Along with education, Mr. Reilly spoke about the state's need for a long-term strategic plan, which he said would also be one of his administration's top goals.
"Growth, development, housing, education - that is what is important to the quality of life and the future of Massachusetts," he said. "It's not just big business. The key to the future of this economy is innovation. We're on the cutting edge of life sciences and bio-technology, and we have to build off those strengths. Education has always been the key and that's what has generated the ideas and creative abilities that have sustained our economy for generations."
Among those ideas, he believes, are new solutions in alternative energies for future generations. That should not, however, include projects like the controversial Cape Wind offshore turbine project.
"It's not a wind farm - it is a power plant, right in the middle of Nantucket Sound, and we should pass it on to future generations the way it is now," he said. "But there is a right way to do things, and not this way, which is really nothing more than a giveaway to a private developer for absolutely nothing. It is important to me that Nantucket Sound has been designated an ocean sanctuary by Massachusetts and that should be honored and respected - and it should be off-limits."
Mr. Reilly also has plans to protect the state's youth from gang violence and crime, which he said has risen steadily in recent years, by returning to an emphasis on community policing. Mending the rift between the state and local governments is another item on his checklist.
"The first thing Mr. Romney did was cut budgets dramatically and cut local aid dramatically, and it hurt everything from basic infrastructure to school aid at a time when there was a tremendous burden on cities and towns to maintain public safety," he said. "I strongly believe in a new and different relationship between state government and local communities - where the local communities are not only heard but are given a strong voice in projects they consider important and in the ways to do it," he said.
"This administration has totally fallen down with respect to the basic relationship between state government and local cities and towns throughout the state. We have to restore that aid and we have to rebuild that relationship."
Turning to the Vineyard, where he said he has enjoyed tremendous support throughout his career, Mr. Reilly noted its uniqueness but also drew some comparisons to the rest of Massachusetts.
"I know housing is an issue that is affecting the Island, but it is affecting the entire state as well," he said. "But it is especially critical to maintain and preserve the character of Martha's Vineyard. It's a special place, and it's all a question of balance, of preserving that special character. There are a lot of factors that go into it, and housing is one of them.
"Just walking around you see the diversity that makes the Island special," he continued. "The people here love Massachusetts as much as I love it, and they love their Island even better. I live on the second floor of a two-decker in Watertown, which is much like places on the Vineyard - it's not rich, and not poor. They want a governor who understands what they're up against and understands how hard they are working and can't get ahead. Whether it is higher gasoline prices, electricity prices, they need some hope in the future."
And with a smile, he acknowledged that may indeed become his greatest uphill battle.
"It's a battle worth having, and that's how I feel about the state," he added. "I am running because I care about Massachusetts and I am not going to sit back and watch it continue to go in the direction that it's going. We're losing jobs, losing population, and I believe I can make a difference. It's not in me to sit this out when the future of this state is at stake."