Romney not engaged as governor, says Massachusetts legislator

DENVER — What kind of president would Mitt Romney be? It’s hard to say, but one Massachusetts legislator says Romney is the kind of guy who will say whatever it takes to get elected and that he never really seemed interested in being governor.

Democrat Charley Murphy has been a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 1996, serving in a number of leadership positions. Romney was governor from 2002-2006, and did not seek a second term.

MA state Rep. Charley Murphy, a Democrat, was in Denver recently to talk about Mitt Romney's term as governor. (Kersgaard)

Murphy said it seemed to him and other political observers that Romney not only ran his campaign for governor as if it were a campaign for president but that his primary purpose in running for governor was to position himself for a run at the White House.

“He wasn’t terribly engaged as governor. He was insulated. When he took office, there was actually a velvet rope up in front of the executive offices to stop you from coming in. There was a bank of two elevators right outside of the executive office suite. There was one elevator that only the governor used, nobody else could use it,” Murphy said, noting that Romney is the only governor in his memory to cordon off a private elevator.

“I remember people observing when he ran for governor that he was running as if it were a presidential campaign, he was very insulated, on message, the media couldn’t get to him unless there was a very strict schedule. I would suggest that he wasn’t terribly engaged in his four years. It was almost accepted by folks that the only reason he ran for governor was so he could run for president,” Murphy said while in Denver recently. “It was a stepping stone. That’s all.”

Murphy’s interview with the Colorado Independent was arranged by the Obama campaign. Romney’s national campaign office did not return an email and his Colorado campaign did not return a phone call. The Colorado Independent additionally called and emailed several Republican members of the Massachusetts legislature, seeking a counterpoint, but those messages were also not returned.

In addition to his contention that Romney only wanted to be governor so he could be president, Murphy said Romney’s positions on social issues have changed dramatically since he first sought office.

“Look at where he stood when he ran against Ted Kennedy for Senate and then when he ran for governor. On issues like same-sex marriage, he led people to believe he supported it, and he completely tacks the other way now that he is running for president, and I think there are many examples of that,” Murphy said.

“His compass doesn’t work terribly well. He ran as a very moderate Republican and he tried to appeal to as many people as he could and said whatever he needed to get that done when he ran for the Senate and again for governor. You absolutely have to be a moderate to be elected governor of Massachusetts as a Republican, that’s the politics of it.”

Indeed, Romney’s shifting positions have been well documented.

From an article at regarding a debate between Romney and Ted Kennedy, when Romney ran against Kennedy in 1994:

“I have supported the Roe v. Wade [decision]. I am pro-choice,” Kennedy said. “My opponent is multiple choice.”

Romney replied with an answer that has dogged him ever since: “My mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that, or be a multiple choice, thank you very much.”

Romney at that time also declared that he was “stronger on gay rights than Kennedy.”

He seemed to move to the right once he was elected governor.

Murphy said Romney did not appear to have much of an agenda or vision as governor. His most important accomplishment, Murphy said, is one that he now seems to wish hadn’t happened at all.

“He got health care done on his watch. I give him credit for that. I would suggest it was his biggest accomplishment in his four years and it is one he would just as soon throw away.

“That is his legacy and it is a good one, one the feds followed, pretty much as a blueprint,” Murphy said.

He said the Massachusetts health care plan is popular, and that about 98 percent of the state’s residents now have health insurance.

As to whether Romney’s business career qualifies him for the presidency or better equips him to steer the economy, Murphy is dismissive.

“It always makes me smile when you see candidates who lead with ‘I ran a company, therefore I can run a government.’ Well, the government is not a company. It is a different mission, different structure, different motivations. It’s not just the bottom line,” Murphy said.

“I have no qualms with him being a successful businessman, but when he was running Bain it was all about the bottom line.

“There are lots of examples of companies Bain bought where they shipped jobs overseas. There are thousands of people whose lives have been decimated, but I guess, ‘hey good for you; you got it done,’ but that business savvy does not automatically tell me you can run a government. They were just cutting and running at Bain for the sake of the almighty buck,” he said.

Asked about Romney’s alleged bullying behavior as a teenager, Murphy waffled a little, saying those incidents did not come to light while Romney was running for governor, that they happened 50 years ago, and that people do “grow up.”

“To be fair, he doesn’t strike me as an evil person to the extent that I know him. Perhaps you read the accounts of the bullying of that one kid, and I think that probably goes over some line and reflects to some degree what he is all about.

“The story about the kid, when it came out, I think it gave a lot of people pause, but is that going to stop Republicans from voting for him? No. But does it give me pause as a window into his soul almost? Most definitely. Anyone who could do that, there is just something wrong. It was just odd when that came out.

“Then you have the dog thing. Who does that? It is just weird and he hasn’t denied it. He admits its true. I’m sure the dog was terrified. That’s just weird.

“Who does that?” Murphy asked.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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