October 19, 2006 – Vol. 42, No. 10
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Thousands support Patrick at Boston Common rally

Serghino René

It was nearly a year ago that Deval Patrick stood alongside Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and community leader Ron Bell to celebrate passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on Boston Common’s bandstand near Tremont Street.

With more than 5,200 people packed near the podium on Boston Common last Sunday, Patrick promised to push for greater voter turnout and increased civic engagement.

“Are you ready for a change?” Patrick asked. “Are you ready to work for it? Are you ready to demand it?”

The crowd was at a fever pitch, and Patrick set them in motion: “Well, let’s get started!”

After a week of negative ads by his opponent, the rally for Patrick couldn’t have come at a better time. For the last 18 months, Patrick’s grassroots gubernatorial campaign has energized the politics of the state and has earned him a significant lead in recent polls over Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the Republican candidate.

Part of the reason for Patrick’s success has been his ability to raise the level of political discourse while refraining from the use of negative political advertisements, the linchpin of national Republican politics. By most accounts, Patrick’s classiness has made Healey appear desperate, and worse, utterly lacking in leadership skills.

Menino was passionate when he introduced Patrick to the crowd.

“I believe his decency was the beacon of hope that earned him his enormous victory in the primary election,” Menino said. “I believe that that decency… that simple, fundamental sense of fairness, is what will propel him to victory again.”

The issue of campaign decency came into play last week when a Boston newspaper published a story detailing the marital problems of Patrick’s sister.

In response, Patrick blasted the Healey campaign, arguing that her use of negative advertisements had brought a needless nastiness to the political debate. For her part, Healey denied leaking the story and demanded an apology from Patrick. He refused.

“The truth is that the Healey campaign has created a political environment so toxic that things like this are going to happen,” Patrick said. “… What Kerry Healey doesn’t understand is that leaders set the tone … So, no, Kerry Healey, I will not apologize for laying this outrage at your feet. That is where it belongs!”

Patrick went on to explain that Healey has little choice but to divert attention away from her role in a Romney Administration that saw unemployment increases, Big Dig tragic mishaps and a decline in the state’s population.

“If I were Kerry Healey, I would change the subject too,” Patrick said.

Cambridge Mayor Kenneth Reeves was among several community leaders in attendance who believed that Healey’s negativity is backfiring on her.

“I think the voters are very smart,” Reeves said. “I think they are able to read gutter level campaigning for what it is. Healey will go down and play low. The good thing about Deval is that he really is as good as he appears.”

No kidding.

Patrick was a virtual unknown when he launched his campaign nearly 18 months ago. At Sunday’s rally, his grassroots efforts appeared to be paying off. Patrick supporters showed up from across the state, largely because people believe that he is actually listening to their needs and issues.

One such supporter was former New Bedford Mayor John Bullard, who is concerned about the commuter rail linking his city, located in the southeastern part of the state, with the city of Boston.

“Our city is fed up with Republican leadership and having someone respond to our needs is like a breath of fresh air for New Bedford and communities outside 495,” Bullard said. “It shouldn’t take two hours to drive to Boston if we are only 55 miles away. It is clear that Boston is the economic engine for Massachusetts. It’s because of high housing prices that people come here [to New Bedford].”

Patrick has visited New Bedford several times during his campaign and has reiterated his commitment to the rail project. During the Democratic primary, Patrick beat opponents Chris Gabrieli and Tom Reilly by nearly 2,000 votes there.

John Alves, New Bedford city council president, says the city is overwhelmingly for Patrick.

“His sincerity and concern for places outside of greater Boston gives their community greater hope,” said Alves. “A commuter rail in our community would give residents an opportunity for employment in Brockton, Braintree and Boston. There is also a need for quality labor in those communities as well, and New Bedford can provide [workers] with affordable housing. It’s a win/win situation and it would provide an incredible boost to our community.”

In the city’s golden years, it was the richest city in the world for textiles and a leader in the whaling industry. Those days have since passed. Today, New Bedford is a working class town with one of the largest Portuguese populations in the country, high unemployment and a significant influx of Hispanic immigrants.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, located west of the city, is the ticket to the middle class for many. Unfortunately, the city’s resources are not strong enough to retain their graduates, said New Bedford city councilor David Alves.

“Those who seek a middle class lifestyle must seek jobs in Boston or Providence,” he said. “To hear that [Patrick] wants to put more money toward public education and high tech is a breath of fresh air.”

Patrick’s support for a commuter rail is not the only issue for which he has gained admiration. Another issue is his stance on public safety.

Patrick released a plan in August, outlining the need for forward-thinking measures to improve public safety throughout the Commonwealth. The former civil rights attorney in the Clinton White House promised to replace tough talk with real action and put 1,000 new police officers on the streets to help control rising crime.

Numerous public safety and law enforcement officials have endorsed Patrick, including former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, former U.S. Attorneys Donald Stern and Wayne Budd, and Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral.

Last Saturday, Patrick received several more endorsements from law enforcement groups.

“We, the members of Essex County Correction Officers Association, endorse Deval Patrick for governor,” said Richard Hopkins, ECCOA president. “ Mr. Patrick is aware that corrections officers walk law enforcement’s most dangerous beats, and he will be committed to ensuring that the safety and security of the facilities and the officers that work behind prison walls will not be compromised by politics or budget cuts.”

David Holway, president of the National Association of Government Employees, which includes the International Brotherhood of Police Offices and the International Brotherhood of Correctional Officers, also endorsed Patrick.

“I am also here today because I believe that Kerry Healey and the Romney Administration had the opportunity to make public safety a priority, but didn’t,” Holway said. “Under the Romney/Healey Administration, crime rates went up sharply in the state’s largest cities, District Attorneys’ budgets shrank and huge cuts in local aid took police officers off patrol by the hundreds.”

Hugh Cameron, president of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police echoed those sentiments.

“We need serious leaders at the state level who will work in partnership with cities and towns and law enforcement to prevent, prosecute and punish crime,” Cameron said. “We believe that strong leadership will be provided by Deval Patrick and Tim Murray. Deval Patrick was a prosecutor. Tim Murray is a large city mayor. They won’t just talk the talk, they will walk the walk and give law enforcement the tools we need.”

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