Dukakis's Republican appointees have been few and far between

NO Massachusetts governor in at least half a century has named fewer members of the opposition party to important state posts than has Michael Dukakis. Over the years governors have made appointments from across the political aisle. But unlike two immediate predecessors - Republican Francis Sargent and then-Democrat Edward King - Governor Dukakis has had no such political outsiders in his cabinet.

In contrast, at least two Democrats headed superagencies in the GOP-dominated Sargent administration in the early 1970s, and at least two Republicans were in the 10-member largely Democratic King cabinet in the early '80s.

Throughout his political career Mr. Dukakis has been very much a party loyalist. And at a time when there is no shortage of state Democrats, there has been little incentive to look elsewhere for help in steering the commonwealth.

Dukakis says his prime objective has been quality. But clearly the governor is more comfortable among Democrats, especially those who share his philosophy as to how the state should be run.

But as partisan as Dukakis is, there is little doubt that he has been doing some quiet searching for a few potential GOP appointees that might broaden his political base and voter appeal.

A major problem for the governor and his talent scouts has been finding Republicans who have what they are looking for and who would be willing to join his administration. Some Republicans who otherwise might be eager to serve in the executive branch may be reluctant to become part of a team led by a Democratic presidential nominee.

And at this point conservative-leaning GOP leaders are not about to encourage their party members to go to work for Dukakis.

Certainly it is not the governor's responsibility to help the opposition. But the scarcity of Republicans in state government, including the executive branch, has to be a concern not only to the GOP but, more important, to all those committed to a strong two-party government.

Most of the Republicans named to various state posts by the governor during his nearly 10 years as head of state, occupy seats on various boards and commissions where there is a limit on how many members can be from the same party. Thus by law Dukakis has sometimes had to look beyond Democratic ranks.

But in some instances instead of picking a Republican for an opening he has come up with an independent - someone registered with neither party. That certainly is within the law, as disappointing as it might be to the state Republican Party and some of its members.

In fairness to Dukakis, his choice of an independent for a state administrative or policy-shaping panel may not be a snub to the GOP but rather an attempt to provide some representation to what has become the state's fastest growing voter bloc. Latest statewide registration figures include nearly 1.2 million independent voters. That is nearly triple the just over 400,000 Republicans registered and only a little less than 200,000 fewer than the 1.3 million plus Democrats on the rolls.

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