We asked Harshbarger to start off by giving us the short version of why he decided to endorse Patrick. He noted that he and Patrick have known each other for many years since they worked together on controlling predatory lending in the 1990s, that Patrick was the chair of Harshbarger’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign, and that the two of them share a lot of the same values. No surprises there. But Harshbarger went on to say that he’s “incredibly impressed” at the campaign Patrick has built, describing it as coming “from nowhere,” and as focused on mobilizing people based on hope and opportunity. He sees a Patrick governorship as a way of restoring Massachusetts to a position of national leadership, and describes Patrick as the one “great” candidate in a field of three “good” Democratic candidates for Governor.
Next, we asked about the role that Harshbarger expects to play in the campaign. As was announced this morning, Harshbarger has signed on as the campaign’s public safety advisor. For the present, Harshbarger expects to be devoting his efforts to the substantive work of developing Patrick’s public safety platform – there is already a brief outline posted of what the plan will probably look like; Harshbarger will no doubt be expanding it to look like the more detailed proposals in Patrick’s “Moving Massachusetts Forward” collection of policy papers. Of course, Harshbarger will also campaign for Patrick and “do whatever the campaign sees as appropriate.”
As regular readers know, I’ve written a fair amount about violence (particularly Boston’s crime wave) lately, so I asked Harshbarger to speak in greater detail about the role that the state, as opposed to the cities and the police departments, can play in controlling crime. He had a lot to say about that. He talked at some length about the Safe Neighborhoods Initiative, which he described as a nationally-recognized model that was pioneered in Boston (Tom Reilly was involved in that – more on Reilly later). It involves collaboration between federal, state, and local authorities, as well as community leaders and community-based social service programs. It also involves a “zero tolerance” attitude toward violence, and rejects the notion that urban violence is “sad but inevitable.” It is, in short, what worked so well in Boston 10 years ago.
Harshbarger said it was “very sad and disappointing” to see the erosion of a program that worked so well. And he added that the biggest “missing link” has been leadership from the top, that is, from the Governor’s office. He said that the program has faded not because of lack of resources, but lack of will. Egos and turf battles among different players and agencies are inevitable with a program like this, which is why it’s essential to have leadership from the top, and Harshbarger sees Patrick as ready to step up to that challenge. Ideally, he said, everyone gets the credit for success, and everyone gets the blame for failure.
Elaborating on the role of the Governor, Harshbarger said that, for the last three weeks (since the CA/Tastrophe), Romney has “actually governed.” “What if he had actually done that for the last four years,” he wondered aloud. Patrick, Harshbarger said, will meet that standard every day, noting also that real reform and change are not for those with short attention spans – “you can get it done, but you have to make a commitment to stay at it.”
I asked Harshbarger why, in light of his years of working with Tom Reilly and Reilly’s involvement with the Safe Neighborhoods Initiative, he was choosing to endorse Patrick instead of Reilly. Harshbarger admitted that the decision was “personally, somewhat difficult” for him, and noted that he also knows and likes Gabrieli. But in Patrick, he said, there is “a chance for real greatness.” In addition to Patrick sharing virtually all of Harshbarger’s core beliefs not only on crime prevention but also on marriage, death penalty, economic and social justice, ethics reform, and so on, Harshbarger sees in Patrick an opportunity “not only to win, but to win in a way that brings new life and new people into the Democratic party.”
Bob, noting that Harshbarger had mentioned that Patrick would be an “independent” Governor, asked whether he thought Patrick would be more “independent” of entrenched Beacon Hill interests than the other candidates. This allowed Harshbarger an opening to talk about the legislature and his 1998 campaign for Governor – with some interesting results. Harshbarger said that “far too often, my own party has been run by insiders than by interests of the people.” He then got more specific, saying that for too long, the legislative leadership has been run “by and for the benefit of State House insiders rather than for the public. We’ve paid a price in terms of governmental accountability and effectiveness.” He said that it’s “up to the Democratic party to renew itself,” and that “you begin in the corner office.” Patrick, he said, is someone who is a true outsider to Beacon Hill, who has impressive experience in the private sector, both in law and business, and who “has demonstrated real wisdom about the political process – that power lies in the people.”
Fanning the flames, Harshbarger opined that the leadership might prefer a weak Governor, so that they can continue setting the agenda, over “a strong Democratic Governor who can lead.” (I’ve floated a similar idea.) He recalled that his biggest challenge in 1998 was that, since he was perceived as “too independent,” the Beacon Hill power brokers – even those in his own party – might have preferred Paul Cellucci to him, and found it easy to “mail in” their support for him. Patrick, he said, is tested enough that he won’t be “victimized” on Beacon Hill.