Avellone says campaign trail gave him optimism for future

Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 18, 2014…..Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Avellone misses the campaign trail, said his run made him optimistic about the future of the state and said he will wade back into politics endorsing the Democratic nominee after the Sept. 9 primary.

“Whoever’s going to win the general election is going to have to become a little more centrist in their views in order to get elected,” Avellone told the News Service in a phone interview Monday. He said, “I imagine that anybody that wins the Democratic primary has to make sure that they can reach out to a broad number of people who are the center of our party or the Democrats are going to give it away. So I would imagine I could help with that.”

A former Wellesley selectman, health care advisor to the presidential campaign of Paul Tsongas and executive at biotech company Parexel, Avellone said his failure to crack the 15 percent threshold at the state convention needed to qualify for the ballot was a disappointment, but he doesn’t regret running.

“Believe it or not I actually thought we were going to get past the convention, even though the common wisdom was that we weren’t all going to make it,” Avellone said. He said, “I was a little disappointed that we came up short, certainly appreciated all the good support I did get.”

Avellone was bounced from the primary ballot by delegates at the state convention who did not amass behind him or his fellow competitor Juliette Kayyem in sufficient numbers to clear a 15 percent threshold. Steve Grossman, the state treasurer, took the largest share of the delegate vote, followed by frontrunner Martha Coakley, who barely edged Don Berwick, a health care expert and the third candidate to make it onto the Democratic ballot.

While Kayyem, a security expert and former Boston Globe columnist, has re-emerged as a commentator, Avellone has kept a lower profile, returning to Parexel, where he had previously led the international company’s largest division, in a different senior advisory role, helping to better support biotech companies.

Avellone said the endorsement by Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty was a high-point of the campaign, and his time around the state gave him optimism for the future.

“We have problems for sure, but in every region there’s good people that want to solve them, and I think there’s kind of a general consensus, generally, on what needs to be done, and I think if state government reflects that we’re going to really move our state forward,” Avellone said.

Avellone said he had hoped to add a more moderate perspective to the Democratic primary, advocating savings on health care expenditures that would obviate the need for broad tax increases while highlighting the needs and opportunities of the smaller so-called gateway cities around the state, and finding ways to address the scourge of drug addiction.

The first candidate to declare for the 2014 open governorship in Massachusetts, Avellone said he misses the campaign trial, enjoyed intersecting with the Boston mayoral candidates last summer, and of his four opponents, said, “I consider them my friends.”

Avellone said he would do it all again.

“Absolutely. It was a great privilege for my wife and for me. It’s a huge undertaking to run a statewide campaign,” said Avellone, who put thousands of dollars behind his candidacy. He said, “You don’t do it on a lark.”

After the convention in Worcester, Avellone said he received “very nice calls” from his four primary opponents as well as Republican frontrunner Charlie Baker.

“I knew I would have to make my case in the primary, so I was expecting it was going to be a very aggressive effort to try and prevail in the primary, but I didn’t expect to not make it in the convention, so that was a disappointment,” said Avellone.

If he had a chance to do it over, Avellone said he would have revised his caucus strategy to be sure that his campaign “really knew the delegates that were coming to the convention on our behalf.”

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