To quell such criticism, Romney appointed a special advisory panel that included minority and civil rights leaders to recommend changes.
"The changes the panel wanted became too hot for the administration to deal with," said Leonard Alkins, who was head of the NAACP's Boston branch during the controversy and was a member of Romney's advisory panel. Alkins said many of the panel's recommendations were aimed at bolstering the policies Romney had abolished.
Romney essentially walked away from the fight, ignoring his own advisory panel. Instead, he had state officials effectively follow the old affirmative action policies he had formally revoked with his executive order.
It wasn't until Deval Patrick, a Democrat who was the state's first black governor, took office in 2007 that the old policies formally were reinstated.
Alkins said Romney never seemed to grasp that the aim of the state's affirmative action policies was to protect people who were wrongfully denied equal rights in the workplace.
"I felt that the governor was out of touch," said Alkins. "He was very uncomfortable with the issue of race and how you would address issues such as affirmative action."
The policies Romney erased were started three decades earlier by Republican Gov. Frank Sargent and substantially expanded by Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1983. Three Republican governors who directly preceded Romney had left the policies in place.
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