Five Questions for Jane Swift;
Farmer, Former Massachusetts Governor

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Massachusetts has a reputation as a deeply Democratic state. But when it comes to the corner office on Beacon Hill, it’s a different story.

Since 1991, the Bay State has had a slew of Republicans serve as governor of the Commonwealth. That includes Jane Swift, the first woman to do so.

Swift grew up in North Adams, a city in northwestern Massachusetts. Swift was elected as a Republican to the Massachusetts Senate in 1990, at age 25. In 1998, she was elected lieutenant governor, as the running mate of Paul Cellucci. When Cellucci resigned in April 2001 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Swift became acting governor at 36 years old; this made her the youngest woman to serve as governor in American history.

She finished her term in January 2003, after opting not to run for election. She has not run for public office since.

Swift, now 58, currently owns Cobble Hill Farm Education & Rescue Center, a 25-acre property in Willamstown, at the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, where students and families learn about farming and nature.

NewBostonPost conducted an email interview with Swift on a wide range of political topics.  It’s below.


1.  One thing the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts does is chair the governors’ council. Some people have called for abolishing the council in recent years. Do you think the governor’s council should stay or go?

There definitely needs to be a confirmation authority for Judicial Appointments. While the Senate could play that role, there would be a lot more nuance in the process as they have so many other areas of business with the Governor to negotiate. However, on balance, I would lean toward having the Senate play that role. The other task of approving payments is pretty perfunctory and unnecessary.


2.  What would you consider to be your most right-wing position as well as your most left-wing position politically? 

My position on economic issues — taxes and small business regulation (or supporting less regulation) are where my conservatism comes through. Social issues are seen as more ‘liberal’ but I would argue that leaving individuals to make their own decisions about their private lives is actually pretty conservative — why is government involved in that at all?


3. What’s your proudest achievement as an elected official? 

I am proud of the role I played in crafting the education reform bill of 1993 as Senator serving as one of six members of the conference committee; then as Lieutenant Governor I played a significant role for our administration traveling around the state working on thorny implementation issues, and then holding the line on the MCAS graduation requirement as Governor. If I can have a second one that no one knows about, I extended (through executive order) financial assistance to all foster children who ‘aged out’ of the system to attend college for free. I always felt a special connection to the issues impacting abused and neglected children as the first woman in MA to have a child while running for statewide office and then the first woman in the country to give birth while serving as Governor. 


4.  At the start of 2001, six of the 12 U.S. senators from Massachusetts from New England were Republicans. Now, there is only one Republican U.S. senator from New England. Do you see a future for the socially liberal, moderate Republicanism of the Northeast? 

We still have popular Republican Governors in Vermont, New Hampshire, and MA. But voters in New England are pretty smart and they don’t like the direction of the GOP nationally — neither do I. Until we get back to a big-tent, sane national party, I fear we won’t have representation here.


5. Who do you think is the best current or recent member of Congress and why? 

I admire Liz Cheney’s willingness to stick to her convictions — even though she is much more conservative on many issues than me. I am also a fan of Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Shelly Capito (West Virginia), and of course, Susan Collins (Maine) — all of whom are often at the top of the list of most bi-partisan Senators. There is a lot of research on the role that women play in elected office in finding solutions to complex issues.


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