Corner Office hopeful Berwick stakes out progressive ground

Dr. Donald M. Berwick, a former Obama administration health care official who is running for governor, wants you to know he is progressive. Really, really progressive.

Asked by a reporter today what his poverty agenda was, Berwick said: “End it.’’

How? “Investment,’’ the Democrat said.

“We still have poverty, we still have hunger, we still have homelessness, we still have people with disadvantage,’’ he said, slapping a table with an open hand. “And this is a state smart enough and well-endowed enough to deal with that. We don’t have to have a single homeless person in Massachusetts. It’s not needed. We can eliminate that,’’ he added.


Berwick, who holds three degrees from Harvard and who spent almost a year and a half running the country’s massive Medicaid and Medicare programs, launched his campaign in June.

In a fifty-minute sit-down with three reporters in the lobby of the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, Berwick spoke extensively about his area of expertise: health care. But, in broad strokes with few specifics, he also framed himself as someone deeply supportive of a robustly interventionist state government that spends money to help alleviate the suffering of its citizens who are struggling the most.

He said he supported an increase in the minimum wage, increases in state spending on transportation and education, and a more progressive tax code.

“We should use the tax system to help people of greater means contribute more to the well being of the Commonwealth,’’ he said.

Berwick said that increasing the state income tax while reducing the state sales tax would be a way of making the tax system more progressive.

On health care, he praised both the Massachusetts’ system and the federal Affordable Care Act, which, he said, was “right on track.’’ He said further reducing health care costs at the state level could help free up more money for other priorities.


Berwick staking out liberal territory makes political sense: voters in the Democratic primary tend to skew more progressive than the Massachusetts electorate at large.

So far, Berwick’s opponents for the Democratic nomination for governor are: Treasurer Steven Grossman, state Senator Daniel A. Wolf, and biotechnology executive Joseph Avellone.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and US Representative Michael E. Capuano, all Democrats, said they are thinking about a run for the Corner Office.

On the Republican side, Charles D. Baker, who lost to Patrick in 2010, is seen as likely to run again for governor.

On July 15, Berwick reported having $215,000 in his campaign account. That was less than the $573,000 Grossman reported, but more than the $49,000 Avellone reported having in the bank.

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