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Juliette Kayyem announces run for Mass. governor

Juliette Kayyem at her home in Cambridge.Elise Amendola/AP

Juliette N. Kayyem , a former Obama administration homeland security official and a Democrat, became Wednesday the first woman to jump into the 2014 governor’s race.

Kayyem, 44, who worked as a columnist for the Boston Globe editorial page for two years before resigning this week, announced her candidacy to succeed Governor Deval Patrick in a professionally shot web video.

Though her expertise is in homeland security issues, Kayyem said she will fashion her campaign around broad themes, on helping Massachusetts get ready for the future in areas such as education, technology, and the environment.

“It’s really about not wishing for the past, not thinking about what might have been, but how Massachusetts should be and preparing for that,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “And that’s what I’ve done all my career.”


Kayyem, a former assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, added that she had “managed and led in really difficult circumstances.” She cited, among other examples, her work helping to organize the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In a half-hour telephone interview with the Globe Wednesday, she said her campaign will focus on integrating technology into education; developing the state’s infrastructure, from ports to broadband to clean energy; and focusing on how to make the state adaptable to the consequences of climate change.

“Any governor who is going to lead in the next four [or] eight years has to take climate adaptation exceptionally seriously: we are a coastal state,” she said.

Prior to being appointed to the Obama administration, Kayyem, who is Lebanese-American, served under Patrick as undersecretary for homeland security.

Former state senator Steven A. Baddour, who worked with Kayyem while she was in the Patrick administration, said he expected her to bring excitement to the campaign trail.


“She’s smart. She’s aggressive. She’s charismatic,” he said.

A Cambridge resident and mother of three, Kayyem joins a field of four other Democrats vying for their party’s nod in the race to succeed Patrick, who has said he is not running for reelection in 2014. The candidates are Treasurer Steven Grossman, state Senator Daniel A. Wolf, former Obama administration health care official Donald M. Berwick, and biotechnology executive Joseph Avellone.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Attorney General Martha Coakley, Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, and US Representative Michael E. Capuano.

Coakley, well known in the state and seen as a formidable candidate if she enters the race, is expected to announce her decision in September.

Political observers do not see Kayyem’s entry having an effect on whether other potential candidates jump into the fray.

Kayyem was born in Los Angeles, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has been a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She resigned Tuesday as a columnist for the Globe’s editorial page and recently left her position as a contributor to CNN, where she had been a frequent television presence discussing homeland security issues.

In the interview, Kayyem appeared relatively well versed on the debates that have roiled Beacon Hill in recent months and years.

She said she supported the essence of the Legislature’s recent transportation finance package, which raised taxes to help pay for the state’s aging transportation infrastructure.

But, Kayyem said, she would favor the repeal of the new tax on certain computer software services.


That software services tax is strongly opposed by an influential swath of the business community in Massachusetts, which says it will hurt the state’s technology sector.

“I think the complaints are pretty valid at this stage,” she said.

Kayyem said she would seek to replace the revenue from that tax with another source of revenue, perhaps a “different kind of tech tax.”

On charter schools, Kayyem left herself some wiggle room, but said she would support raising “the cap for school districts that have long waiting lists.”

She said she supports casino gambling in the state, which would be part of the financial landscape for whatever candidate succeeds Patrick.

“Casinos are now a reality for how the state has budgeted for the next 10 years,” she said.

Pressed on whether her homeland security expertise has prepared her for the state’s corner office, with its varied responsibilities often far afield from security issues, Kayyem emphatically said it has.

“Homeland security issues are about the homeland as much as they are about security,” she explained. “They are about preparing our families and communities and environment and infrastructure for whatever could happen.”

In her announcement video, she distilled her message down even further, almost to a slogan.

“I am not a career politician. I don’t believe in luck; I believe in preparedness,” Kayyem said. “I will make sure that Massachusetts is ready for whatever comes our way.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.