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Interview with Michael Dukakis

Michael Dukakis was Governor of Massachusetts from 1975-1979 and again from 1983-1991. He was first elected in 1974, defeating incumbent Governor Francis Sargent, but then lost the 1978 Democratic primary to Edward King, who went on to win the general election. In 1982, Dukakis ran again, defeating Governor King in the primary and winning the general election decisively. He was overwhelmingly reelected in 1986, but chose not to seek another term in 1990.

In addition to serving as Governor for 12 years, Dukakis was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1988.

This interview with the Center on the American Governor was conducted on May 11, 2012 when Governor Dukakis was visiting the Eagleton Institute of Politics as the keynote speaker for another program. It was conducted by John Weingart, Associate Director of the Institute.


Excerpt From the Interview:

On what he did differently when he returned to office four years after having been defeated for reelection:

To say that I was not the favorite of the then-party leadership would be the understatement of the century, but strangely, though I’d been a legislator for eight years and a pretty effective legislator, I had terrible legislative relations. I really didn’t understand, strange as it may sound, how you build strong relationships with your Legislature, and I wasn’t much of a consensus-builder. And for my troubles, even though we did an awful lot during that first four years, I got tossed out of the place, and it was one of these elections where I was 40 points ahead with 5 weeks to go in the polls and I lost my own primary to this guy. I had a chance to teach over at the Kennedy School and kind of reflect on my errors and sins while governor, and when I came back, there’s just no question I was a different guy in many ways, especially in understanding that the way you get things done is to be a consensus-builder. And I’m not talking about being a lowest-common denominator consensus-builder. I mean, I still had very forceful views, but what I really began to understand as a result of that defeat is if you’ve got to use your prestige, your position, to try to bring people to the table, all people, including the folks that disagree with you and especially legislators from the beginning — and so in my second and third terms, we never began going down the policy road without doing that.


Interview on May 11, 2012Transcript available here (pdf)