Imagine all the Democrats

How would the party’s three Corner-Office hopefuls run Massachusetts?
By ADAM REILLY  |  September 1, 2006

060901_patrick_main
Deval Patrick
There are two big things worth knowing about the battle for the Democratic governor’s nomination. First off, the race is a doozy: according to a recent Boston Globe poll, former Coke executive and Clinton-administration official Deval Patrick has the backing of 31 percent of likely Democratic-primary voters, with venture capitalist/philanthropist Chris Gabrieli pulling in 30 percent and Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly nabbing 27 percent.

The other point? Barely anyone cares. According to Secretary of State Bill Galvin, Massachusetts’s top election officer, less than 20 percent of eligible Democratic voters will actually go to the polls on September 19. This apathy isn’t entirely unexpected: it’s the dog days of summer, and the Democratic nominee will still have to face lieutenant governor and Republican nominee Kerry Healey in November’s general election. Even so, since the primary is less than three weeks away, now is probably a good time to ponder exactly what sort of governor Patrick, Gabrieli, and Reilly would actually be. The Phoenix recently asked various political observers for their thoughts, and came up with a number of insights worth pondering, concerning everything from how each candidate would work with the Massachusetts legislature to the sort of people they’d attract to state government. Here are the highlights.

Patrick: ‘a national figure overnight’
Deval Patrick’s candidacy is predicated on the notion that he’s qualitatively different from his rivals — and while there’s hubris in his catchphrase, “No Ordinary Leader,” there’s also a measure of truth. Patrick’s charisma and eloquence set him apart; throw in the fact that he would be the country’s sole African-American governor if elected, and it’s safe to assume a Patrick governorship would be an event of some magnitude. “If Patrick is elected,” one observer predicts, “he becomes a national figure overnight.”

That’s fine, but how would he run Massachusetts? “I think Patrick would be the kind of manager who sets the broad parameters of what his administration would set out to accomplish, and then delegates,” says one prominent Democrat. This kind of leadership requires naming good people who are allowed to succeed — which is where Patrick’s potential as a celebrity politician could pay off: one political observer imagines a Patrick administration filled with “people who are probably younger and less experienced, but very interested in government, who are seeing this new direction of the state and wanting to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, former Democratic National Committee chairman Steve Grossman — who’s supporting Tom Reilly — thinks Patrick would make a point of bringing underrepresented constituencies into his administration. “Deval Patrick’s ascent to the governorship would probably be the most significant force that I could imagine in the political empowerment of communities that have taken root here but haven’t had a champion because they’re relatively new,” Grossman says. (One example he cites: Massachusetts’s burgeoning Brazilian community, which still has a low political profile.) “I think that when important debates and discussions were held, Deval would want around the table men and women who represented new communities, new constituencies, new points of view.”

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Deval Patrick, Michael Dukakis, Chris Gabrieli,  More more >
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