Deval Patrick Hits the 2014 Campaign Trail

As his party searches for campaign surrogates, the Massachusetts governor says he wants to stump for Democratic candidates around the country this year.

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 04: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. 
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
July 22, 2014, 2:21 a.m.

PORT­LAND, Maine — Mas­sachu­setts Gov. Dev­al Patrick traveled a couple of hours north Monday to head­line a private fun­draiser and pub­lic cam­paign rally for Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mi­chael Michaud in Maine, where he is chal­len­ging the gov­ernor, Re­pub­lic­an Paul LePage. But at a press con­fer­ence with the can­did­ate, Patrick made it clear he wants to help Demo­crats both near and far win their elec­tions in 2014.

“I’m go­ing to do as much as I can, con­sist­ent with my day job. I’m gov­ern­ing right up un­til the last day in Janu­ary,” Patrick said, adding: “As and when I can, and where can­did­ates feel I can be help­ful, I’m go­ing to show up and cam­paign with them.”

The Demo­crat­ic, re­tir­ing two-term gov­ernor rarely travels out of state to cam­paign and has re­peatedly denied spec­u­la­tion that he’s con­sid­er­ing a pres­id­en­tial run in 2016, al­though Patrick con­tin­ues to raise money for his polit­ic­al ac­tion com­mit­tee and did stoke in­terest when he agreed to head­line a county Demo­crat­ic din­ner in New Hamp­shire in Septem­ber. Wheth­er or not Patrick is gear­ing up for something big­ger, his ora­tor­ic­al skills and ad­vocacy for a grass­roots-fo­cused party could fill a void with­in a Demo­crat­ic Party lack­ing big-name sur­rog­ates on the cam­paign trail in 2014.

With Pres­id­ent Obama’s ap­prov­al num­bers sag­ging and Hil­lary Clin­ton en­gaged with her book tour, sur­rog­ate help for Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates can be hard to come by right now. Patrick’s in-state col­league, Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren, is tak­ing on the role in some un­ex­pec­ted places, but there is room for more Demo­crats who can both raise money and fire up a crowd. Patrick, who gave a well-re­ceived Demo­crat­ic con­ven­tion speech in 2012, could fit the bill.

An aide pre­vi­ously said Patrick would sup­port New Hamp­shire’s Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or and gov­ernor, Jeanne Shaheen and Mag­gie Has­san, in their reelec­tion bids this year, and his PAC, which Patrick de­scribed Monday as “small but mighty” and grass­roots-fo­cused, has already giv­en to can­did­ates, in­clud­ing U.S. Sen­ate can­did­ate Michelle Nunn in Geor­gia and gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate Wendy Dav­is in Texas.

Lizzy Re­in­holt, Michaud’s com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or, noted it was un­usu­al for an out­side elec­ted of­fi­cial to make a stand-alone cam­paign swing through Maine without do­ing it as a fa­vor in the middle of a nearby va­ca­tion.

Patrick’s cam­paign rally for Michaud in Saco, an old in­dus­tri­al town just south of Port­land, high­lighted what he would bring to the 2014 trail. In front of a crowd num­ber­ing around 100 at a train sta­tion in the shad­ows of a pair of massive, aban­doned tex­tile mills, Patrick de­livered an as­pir­a­tion­al, heav­ily self-pro­mo­tion­al speech, lay­ing out a broad vis­ion for the Demo­crat­ic Party groun­ded in his re­cord in Mas­sachu­setts.

“We have to be about gov­ern­ment that is not solv­ing every prob­lem in every­body’s life, but help­ing people help them­selves,” Patrick said. “I’m a Demo­crat be­cause I be­lieve in the Amer­ic­an Dream. I’ve lived the Amer­ic­an Dream, hav­ing grown up on wel­fare on the South Side of Chica­go, and as my grandma would say, ‘Look at me now.’ “

At times al­most shout­ing, and paus­ing fre­quently be­cause of stand­ing ova­tions from the crowd, Patrick sum­mar­ized, “There isn’t a single chal­lenge fa­cing Maine, or Mas­sachu­setts, or the na­tion that can’t be solved with a sense of re­newed com­munity and com­mon des­tiny.” On be­half of Michaud, Patrick said he was ask­ing voters “to in­vest in a sense of com­munity again.”

John Walsh, Patrick’s former cam­paign man­ager who now runs his PAC, said no cam­paign trips are cur­rently on the book — but that may change. “I an­ti­cip­ate Gov­ernor Patrick may travel to sup­port good can­did­ates,” Walsh said.

Patrick’s pres­ence in Maine also sig­ni­fied a united front among New Eng­land’s Demo­crat­ic gov­ernors against Maine’s LePage, their lone Re­pub­lic­an col­league. Ver­mont Gov. Peter Shum­lin and Patrick joined Michaud in voicing dis­ap­point­ment with LePage’s ab­sences from vari­ous re­gion­al sum­mits hos­ted to ad­dress is­sues like clean en­ergy, the eco­nomy, trans­port­a­tion, and opi­ate ad­dic­tion. LePage is a mem­ber of neither the New Eng­land Gov­ernors Con­fer­ence nor the Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation, hav­ing called such gath­er­ings just “chitchat.”

“This isn’t about Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats; it nev­er has been and it nev­er will be,” said Shum­lin, who chairs the Demo­crat­ic Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation. “It’s about work­ing to­geth­er as gov­ernors, and Gov­ernor LePage has shown a re­mark­able res­ist­ance to work­ing to­geth­er with his neigh­bors.”

Patrick noted when he was first elec­ted in 2006, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont, and Con­necti­c­ut were home to Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors who proved more con­cili­at­ory. “Every single one of them showed me how to co­oper­ate and how to work in part­ner­ship with every­one. Maybe Gov­ernor LePage would be sur­prised,” he said. “We don’t sit around the table spout­ing par­tis­an slo­gans.”

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