As I did in our Andrea Silbert interview, I asked Kelley why he was so interested in the much-maligned office of Lieutenant Governor. Kelley, who is a doctor, drew on his extensive health care background for his answer (Kelley has studied the effect of poverty and war on children in the Middle East, Africa, and Central America, worked on health care policy for Congressman Jim McDermott and Hillary Clinton, and founded and ran a health care company). He pointed out that most legislators and executive branch personnel are not doctors, and that he therefore has a lot more âfront line,â âin the trenchesâ experience with health care than most of the folks who will be setting health care policy. Kelley correctly sees the health care problem as having a significant information and education component â there are a lot of Massachusetts citizens eligible for health care who havenât signed up. And he argues that, as Lieutenant Governor, he could serve a valuable role as the guy who can help the Governor and the legislators understand whatâs really going on in the nursing homes, in the hospitals, in the home health care agencies, and how to make it more likely that patients in those settings will be enrolled in programs for which they are eligible.
Kelley several times emphasized that he’s not running only on the health care issue. He sees the two principal issues adversely affecting job growth as the high cost of housing, and the high cost of health care. He also thinks the state should increase its investment in education, particularly early childhood education. And he thinks the Lieutenant Governor can serve as an advocate in Washington, DC to bring home federal dollars â he expressed puzzlement as to why the current administration doesnât seem to do much of that.
Kelley also expressed concern about the plight that many cities and towns find themselves in: they must deal with unfunded mandates from the state, particularly in the education area, and local aid is never enough. Yet their only means of raising significant funds on their own is property taxes. But endless property tax increases, even if the Prop. 2-1/2 override votes succeed, are a serious burden (particularly on elderly folks who have been in their homes for many years, and who may be âcash poorâ but âhouse richâ).
As to what the solution to this problem might be, Kelley said that lottery funds, which are supposed to go to local aid, were not being used properly, though he was a bit vague on what the exact problem was. He did not advocate increasing the state income tax, though he also said that we should not lower it. He said that money is âin the system,â but that the real solution is to âgrow our way out.â A friendly bit of advice: Kelley might want to be a bit more precise on this topic.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, I asked Kelley about fundraising. Kelley has raised much less money than the other two candidates who have been in the race for a while (Silbert, who has recently topped $250,000 and Deborah Goldberg, who has raised over $125,000 and who is a Stop & Shop heiress), and he has neither the political base of recently-declared candidate Tim Murray (the incumbent Mayor of Worcester) nor the personal wealth of the as-yet-undeclared Chris Gabrieli. Kelley was unconcerned â the money “will arrive,” he said, and he noted that he has a very well qualified finance team working for him. For now, he said, he is focused on developing a grassroots campaign, and on understanding the needs of people in different cities and towns.
Kelley has an unfailingly positive attitude, and a refreshingly optimistic view of how politics could be – he said several times how important he thought it was to bring hope and aspiration back into political discussion. He also has interesting, relevant experience that many politicians lack. But to compete in this increasingly crowded field (there are rumors that Richard Sullivan, the 7-term Mayor of Westfield, may also jump in), Kelley is going to have to start bringing in either the big bucks or the big endorsements – and preferably both. Kelley has interesting things to say in this race. His challenge will be making sure enough people hear them.