Lt. governor candidate Cheung trains eye on future, skilled workforce


PITTSFIELD -- Leland Cheung, a candidate for lieutenant governor, believes he has the right combination of experience and drive to help the next Massachusetts governor move the state forward.

A Cambridge city councilor and former venture capitalist who served on the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative board, Cheung said during a recent trip to the Berkshires that his focus as lieutenant governor would be on the future. Governors, he said, can't do that; they must keep track of here-and-now issues, like the condition of roads and bridges, education funding and taxes.

Cheung believes his experience working with and raising capital for alternative energy entrepreneurs and Internet start-ups gave him insights that could benefit the entire state. One key observation, he said, is that concentrating too much on the tech companies inside the Route 128 loop "is the wrong way to look at this." He advocates a regional approach.

What tends to be overlooked in Boston, he said, is that there is a reservoir of skilled manufacturing knowledge and facilities across Massachusetts, including in the western counties. Too often, he said, once a start-up firm from the Boston-Cambridge area is ready for the manufacturing phase, the entrepreneurs start thinking about moving to other countries, not realizing they could stay in Massachusetts.

Cheung said information, expertise and state funding should be available to lead those incubator firms to other areas in Massachusetts with a strong history in skilled manufacturing and a skilled workforce. His concept includes working with community colleges and other institutions to further enhance the skilled work force throughout the state.

In his drive to "do something for the community," Cheung said he's inspired by his father, who came to the Cambridge area from China in the late 1960s and was struck by the freedom here for political activism and for economic advancement.

His father instilled in him an appreciation of the political freedoms he enjoys here, Cheung said. This was driven home during a number of family trips to China and the knowledge that other family members living there aren't able to fully express their views.

His mother as well inspired him to achieve, Cheung said, joking: "I have a tiger mom and a dragon dad."

Cheung graduated from Stanford University and received a master's degree in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a master's in business administration from MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Cheung supports continuing Patrick's efforts to boost solar, wind and other alternative energy resources in the state. He considers the use of hydrocarbon fuels, "betting against ourselves."

Although a proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Inc. line across the northern sections of the state would bring a cleaner burning form of energy than coal for producing electricity, Cheung said he is opposed to the project. Development of alternative energy facilities and technology and the related manufacturing is a better long-term strategy, he said, both in terms of the environment but in terms of the jobs and economic boost that sector could provide a state willing to lead it.

Cheung said his work on the Cambridge council also gives him a local government perspective other candidates for the office may lack. Being able to work with and motivate all segments of the community is especially important at the local level, he said.

He added that he is "not running for lieutenant as a stepping stone for higher office." Cheung, first elected to the Cambridge council in 2009, said he wanted to become involved in politics but at first didn't think he would be a candidate, only entering a race when he found no one focusing on issues like economic equality.

James Arena-DeRosa, a former regional director of the Peace Corps and regional USDA official; Stephen Kerrigan, a former Democratic National Committee official, and former United Way of Massachusetts executive Michael Lake also are running for the Democratic nomination.

Cheung said he is confident he will receive the required 15 percent support from delegates this weekend during the Democratic State Convention in Worcester to ensure he is on the primary ballot in September.

Cheung was associated with Masthead Partners, a Cambridge-based venture capital firm focusing on digital media, mobile, and Internet infrastructure. He also is an executive committee member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee.

He lives in Cambridge with his wife, Yin, and their infant daughter.

To reach Jim Therrien:,

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