Reich's in the house

Massachusetts: Has President Bush pushed the statehouse to the liberal Democratic challenger?

January 13, 2002

IN THIS CORNER, Jane Swift, first governor in U.S. history to give birth (to twins) in office. As lieutenant governor, she was an embarrassment: She used state transportation for personal business and state employees for baby-sitting.

The 36-year-old acting governor, who rose to power last April when her predecessor resigned, is campaigning now to retain the office. She has picked her openly gay, male, 33-year-old deputy chief of staff to run for lieutenant governor.

They are the conservatives.

In the other corner: Three Democrats who are prominent in Massachusetts are vying for state convention approval to run in the party primary for the nomination to oppose her.

Enter Robert Reich, 55, professor at Brandeis University and secretary of labor during Bill Clinton's first term. Professor Reich can talk rings around anyone, certainly around acting Governor Swift. Will his glib intellectual arrogance bully her? Will he only create sympathy for her?

First, he must become the Democratic nominee, and he is starting late and underfunded.

The conventional wisdom is that acting Governor Swift is grossly inadequate and must lose. But the voters may decide that the mother of three, who commutes 140 miles daily because Massachusetts provides no housing for its governor near Boston, governs no worse than the old guys in suits who preceded her.

If the race is not to the Swift, and the statehouse falls to Democrats, Republicans will know whom to blame.

Former Gov. Paul Cellucci quit last year to become ambassador to Canada. President George W. Bush appointed him. So those two men got the Massachusetts Grand Old Party into this mess. They clearly thought Mr. Cellucci was indispensable to U.S.-Canadian relations, no matter the cost.

The flip side is that if Ms. Swift prevails, those two guys are geniuses.

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