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Dukakis Departs Massachusetts Statehouse to Cheers, a Few Boos

January 4, 1991 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ Three decades after entering politics, Michael Dukakis is a private citizen again. Three terms as governor, including two years of political hell following his failed presidential bid, are behind him.

Dukakis turned over the reins of state government to Gov. William Weld, Massachusetts’ first Republican chief executive in 16 years, in one of three gubernatorial inaugurations in New England on Thursday.

Dukakis walked through the central doors of the Statehouse and down the capital steps in a ceremonial exit while a brass band played Aaron Copland’s ″Fanfare for the Common Man.″

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His wife, Kitty, was beside him as Dukakis looked out on about 2,500 spectators. Many cheered but others booed him, venting their frustrations over more than $1 billion in tax increases, a deficit-ridden state budget and cuts that have curtailed services to the needy.

″Thank You Mike″ signs competed with placards that read, ″Goodbye Duke- of-Taxes.″ One sign bore the message: ″May you never serve anywhere.″

Dukakis, 57, the son of Greek immigrants, had served as governor for 12 years total, the longest period in state history. He was elected to his first term in 1974, lost his bid for re-election in the Democratic primary in 1978, then regained the governor’s office with election victories in 1982 and 1986.

But his political fortunes plunged after he returned to Massachusetts from his unsuccessful presidential bid against George Bush in 1988. The so-called ″Massachusetts Miracle″ business boom he presided over during the early and mid-1980s had gone bust, and his popularity went with it.

Moving through the throng at his farewell, Dukakis said he had no regrets about his career.

″I wouldn’t have traded it for anything,″ he said. ″It was an incredible 30 years.″

In the crowd was Paul Brountas, a friend and Harvard Law School classmate who was at Dukakis’ side throughout the presidential campaign. He recalled a cross-country drive they took after law school to witness the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles that nominated John F. Kennedy for president.

″We talked about our future plans and he said then that the most important goal for him in life was to be the governor of Massachusetts,″ Brountas said. ″So I consider today a sort of celebratory day. How many people achieve the goal they set for themselves as a young man, and such a high goal.″

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Weld, in his inaugural address, didn’t mention Dukakis by name but criticized his administration implicitly.

″While I promise no miracles, I can undertake to avoid past mistakes,″ Weld said. ″We have taxed our economy the way old-time doctors bled their patients, and with similar results.″

Weld, 45, is a former federal prosecutor who left the Justice Department after questioning the ethics of then-Attorney General Edwin Meese. Without offering specifics, he promised to restore fiscal stability to the state facing a budget deficit he estimated could climb to $750 million.

″Entrepreneurial government tends to steer rather than row,″ he said. ″It regards capital expenditures as investments in the future, often in partnership with the private sector.″

Two other governors took the oath of office Thursday in New England, a region suffering from a severe financial decline.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Judd Gregg made fiscal austerity the hallmark of his inaugural address, attended by first lady Barbara Bush.

″Some programs will have to be reduced, some eliminated, many agencies will receive less funding,″ said Gregg, whose state ended its last fiscal year $11 million in the red. ″These are not going to be enjoyable decisions but it is our obligation to make them.″

Maine Gov. John R. McKernan’s was inaugurated Thursday night at a privately-financed ceremony in Augusta, Maine.

In Massachusetts, before his departure, Dukakis said goodbye to his staff. A cardboard box stuffed with photos and gubernatorial gifts carried a note asking staffers to ″please take one.″

Political observers including former House Speaker Thomas P. ″Tip″ O’Neill Jr. predicted that Dukakis’ battered image would improve with time and that he would one day be viewed as one of the state’s best governors.

Dukakis, speaking of his legacy as he moved through the crowd, said: ″We’ll let history judge that.″