City Journal: A Grand Old Defection

Power broker Gloria Larson on dumping the GOP—and why the switch has been good for her social life.

Of all the alliances formed during the gubernatorial race, perhaps the most unexpected was Gloria Larson and Deval Patrick’s. A longtime Republican mover and shaker and an attorney with Foley Hoag, Larson served in Bill Weld’s administration and backed Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey in 2002. So observers were stunned when she signed on to advise the Democrat on business issues.

You’ve called Patrick a centrist. Many say he’s a bra-burning lefty who wants to hand out free needles to illegal immigrants. (Laughs) Here’s what gives me that impression. He was speaking about things I care about—children with meaningful degrees, charter schools, supporting MCAS in full. He always had a smart, nuanced answer.

But you abandoned the GOP before signing up with Patrick. I found the candidates in the [Democratic] primary to be more appealing than the ones running in my own party. But I don’t want to say anything bad against Kerry Healey. I just think there’s a vast difference between being lieutenant governor and being governor.

Wait, you don’t want to say anything bad about her…but… Oh, no, I knew you were going to say that.

The two of you are friends, aren’t you? We’re friends in a professional sense. We don’t hang out in social circles. But that’s different from saying she has the qualifications to lead the state.

People say you’re not a “real” Republican. What is a real Republican—someone with a picture of Karl Rove by the bed? No! I have one of [former New Jersey governor] Christie Whitman instead. We should be more inclusive, including occasionally supporting someone from the other party.

How has your social calendar changed? Do you have to sit by yourself in the Republican cafeteria? No. The support has been jaw-dropping. In a state like Massachusetts, if I only had Republican friends, I’d be extremely lonely.

Would you accept a position in a Patrick administration? I’m not going back into government. I used to tease Bill Weld that I’d done the jobs I wanted to do, so I had to leave.