SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

September 26, 2012

Reflections on Romney

Local, state officials look back on former governor

(Continued)

Hill said Romney met with Democratic leaders once a week and was truly bipartisan.

“He put politics aside and did what was best for the commonwealth,” Hill said. “And because of that, we came out of one of the worst economic times in recent history. No matter what party you’re in, that is something you should be proud of.”

Romney’s methods weren’t universally applauded, however. The governor’s large spending cuts — nearly $1.6 billion — fell on the backs of those who could least afford it, Democrats said.

“Balancing the budget was easy for him, because he had no heart,” Berry said. “It’s true.”

Knowing Berry to be a staunch advocate for the poor and disabled, Romney once asked him how he would cut programs and services to try to balance the budget. The senator balked.

“If I did have any idea, I would never pass it on to a guy like Romney. I would never want to have him figure out a way to hurt people,” Berry said.

Before Bill Scanlon was re-elected Beverly’s mayor in 2003, the Romney administration asked him to be a sort of liaison between the governor’s office and the Massachusetts mayors, but Scanlon declined, he said, because although he “got along with other mayors ... I had nothing to offer these people,” speaking of the massive local aid cuts under Romney.

Personality

Romney the man is also a topic that’s hard for anyone to agree on.

Former Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti used the word “distant” to describe Romney’s personality and questioned whether the former governor can relate to the majority of Americans he would govern as president.

During a private moment, Bonfanti once told the governor about his working-class upbringing in Peabody.

Romney “was trying very hard to relate. He said when he was attending Harvard, he lived in a basement apartment, and when times got tough, he had to sell some stock,” the mayor recalled. “Well, in the Bonfanti household, we had a cupboard in the basement with Campbell’s soup and canned beans. That was our stock. I thought, ‘This guy has no clue. We live in different worlds.’”

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