Following a recent post here linking to chats with three Dem candidates for MA governor, a comment asked about the independents. The first Left Ahead did was today with Jeff McCormick.
Click below to hear the half hour with him. In addition, he recently appeared at Suffolk Law’s Rappaport Center roundtable. His 13-minute self-intro there appears as a video on Suffolk’s site here.
My diary draws on both his chat today and on the roundtable.
First, there are bound to be the obvious comparisons with Willard Mitt Romney. McCormick too has been very successful in MA as a venture capitalist (21 years with his Saturn Partners). Very much unlike Romney, he grew up blue-collar in upstate NY, to college on scholarships, and did not have a rich, politically and corporate connected father. He claims to have arrived in Boston with $800 to make his fortune, which he did. Unlike Romney, there is no delusion when he says he’s self-made.
Superficially, McCormick was a lacrosse champion in HS and at Syracuse. He has a chin that could be a weapon and a great jawline. Those are important only in that they serve to reinforce his self-confidence and well-thought-out positions. I never for a moment felt he was jiving me.
Voters and donors have not been kind to independent gubernatorial candidates here. The few original governors came to office before parties, but maybe only Henry Gardner in 1855 fit the category. Although, as part of the Know-Nothing Movement, he was sort of in a party and managed to beat a popular Whig by a landside.
At the moment, McCormick figures he can appeal to enough voters, particularly the 53% of unenrolled ones. He seems to think it might not be as hard as some of his professional accomplishments. When asked about whether he’s hitting the public meetings and diners, he’s in his element. “I’m really comfortable in diners, much more than in ballrooms,” he said. “I can relate to just about anyone.”
Jobs and Jobs
His stump speech starts with asking voters to associate his campaign with Jeff for Jobs. As background, he cites such VC successes as Boston Duck Tours, Twin Rivers Technologies, and Constant Contact. He honesty figures he can make a culture change on Beacon Hill to bring some of that mindset. He thinks he can do a reset there. “We need to teach people to get out of their comfort zone,” he stated with great confidence in his ability to do so.
He claims to be part of team in his VC career and said, “No one is voting for a CEO.” Instead, he wants the legislators and administration to do the kind of problem solving he favors. He cites ME’s US Sen. Angus King as saying when people see you are solving problems, they want to join you and that’s an easier way to govern.
He offers a familiar and well articulated outline for job growth. He does rely on some accepted but un-implemented ideas, such as no dumb taxes on technology when you want that sector to grow, having an easy flow from high school into voc-tech or community colleges or four-year schools making sure people are learning for jobs that will be there when they finish. Listen in and check is campaign site for specifics.
He needs to be a little careful in his frequent use of business clichés. At Suffolk, for one example, he spoke of opening the kimono for sharing proprietary information. On the other hand, he is on solid ground, particularly in a sports-loving area alluding to Wayne Gretzky’s comment on his icy success as being able to skate not to where the puck is but rather where it will be. McCormick sees his jobs proposals as doing that for workers and future workers here.
Why and How
We did deal today as he did last week at Suffolk with some of the very obvious areas. For one, why walk away from his highly profitable VC biz? Another is how to deal with a long boat of Dems, plus several Republicans and likely more independents.
For the why, I don’t know how many millions he has, but I’m sure he could coast on that forever; likewise I’m sure that is not in his nature to coast at all. Instead, he readily agrees he’d take a huge economic hit to be governor, but that the challenges would be likely more than he has faced and he’d look forward to them.
He is confident enough in his approach and ideas that he thinks they can hold sway in the campaign. He figures there will be a shakeout (my term) as the campaign progresses. Then, “when everyone knows us equally well,” he’ll stand out as the right choice.