November 23, 2006 – Vol. 42, No. 15
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Ed Brooke looks forward to ‘great things’ from Patrick

Kenneth J. Cooper

Former Sen. Edward W. Brooke complimented the political talents of Gov.-elect Deval Patrick and suggested other African Americans considering a run for statewide office can learn from his successful campaign.

Brooke knows about winning statewide office. In 1962, the black Republican was elected attorney general of Massachusetts, gaining reelection two years later. It took three decades for another African American to be elected attorney general in any state. In 1966, he became the first black senator in the 20th century, and the first ever popularly elected. He remains the only African American ever reelected to the Senate.

Now 87 years old and living in Miami, Brooke offered praise in a telephone interview last week for the incoming Democratic governor, whom he tried to contact right after his triumph in the Nov. 7 election.

“Not only is he smart and charming, I think he’s a very fine young man, and I look forward to great things from him,” the former senator said. He cited “close friends” who describe Patrick as “very bright, very articulate, very committed, very personable — all good traits for elected office, especially as governor of the Commonwealth.”

After losing a close race for secretary of state in 1960 to Kevin White, who later became mayor of Boston, Brooke said he made it a personal mission to encourage other African Americans around the country to seek statewide office. Not many tried. He suggested that most might have doubted their chances to win or ability to raise enough campaign cash.

In his autobiography to be released in January, entitled “Bridging the Divide: My Life,” Brooke criticizes the state Democratic Party for taking so long to nominate an African American for a statewide office.

“As I have written, there has never [before] been an African American Democratic candidate for constitutional office in Massachusetts, not even a candidate of Jewish faith,” he said.

This year, Patrick was one of a half-dozen black candidates who ran serious campaigns for statewide offices around the country. He was the only one to win. Brooke, who like Patrick did not emphasize race in his campaigns, said other statewide aspirants should study the governor-elect’s politicking.

“I think they can learn a lot from how he did it, and how voters reacted to him,” said Brooke, who said the key moments in building the Patrick campaign were winning the Democratic convention in the summer and then the party primary in September.

The former senator said he was heartened by Patrick’s victory, but disheartened by the near collapse of the state Republican Party, leaving Beacon Hill without the checks and balances of a two-party system.

Nonetheless, Brooke advised Patrick to hear out Republicans. “I think he should seek them out … He should give respect to their ideas or suggestions. He doesn’t have to take them — just like anybody else’s.”

Patrick has already appointed Gloria Larson, a veteran of the Weld administration, to his transition team and has met with leaders of the decimated Republican minority in the Legislature.

Brooke also suggested that Patrick cannot expect everything to be cozy between him and Democrats who dominate the Legislature. “They’ll be looking for patronage and things they want to sponsor, understandably so. He has to stand up to his own party.”

Asked what African Americans should expect from Patrick, Brooke replied: “I think they expect him to be a governor for all the people in Massachusetts, which includes African Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians. That’s all they can expect and hope for. If otherwise, he won’t be there long, nor should he be there long. That was what he was elected to do, to represent the people — all of the people.”

In 1963, Brooke served as acting governor of Massachusetts for a day while he was attorney general. “That was the day of John Kennedy’s funeral. I was the only Republican constitutional officer. All the Democrats, of course, had to go down. I never went into the governor’s office. I signed what I did in my own office, which I preferred to the governor’s office. I did not pardon anybody.”

In 1966, he might have run for governor instead of senator. But he deferred to fellow John Volpe, the sitting Republican governor who decided to seek reelection.

“I could have gone either way,” Brooke said. “If he had decided to run for Senate, I would have run for governor. Whether I would have won it or not — that’s another story.”

That decision within the Republican Party left it for Deval Patrick to make history as the state’s first black governor — 40 years later.

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