Massachusetts' Patrick on Midterms, Ferguson and 2016

by | December 1, 2014

By Laurel J. Sweet, Colneth Smiley

Gov. Deval Patrick is accepting no responsibility for the Democratic Party losing the State House Corner Office to Republican Charlie Baker after holding it for two terms, telling "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd this morning, "the outcome of elections depend on the candidates, not the folks or the guy on the sidelines."

Patrick, who'll close the book -- at least for now -- on his public service when Baker is sworn as Massachusetts' 72nd governor Jan. 8, bristled as Todd pressured him to say whether he felt responsible for Attorney General Martha Coakley losing her chance to succeed him on Beacon Hill.

"I wasn't on the ballot," said Patrick, who campaigned for Coakley and whose legacy was seen as being at stake in the race.

"I ran against the governor-elect four years ago and we had a different outcome then, Patrick said, referringto his 2010 defeat of Baker. "We had a good candidate who got better as she got closer to Election Day. Of course, she got outspent 9 or 10 to 1. Look, I'm sorry, but the outcome of elections depend on the candidates, not the folks or the guy on the sidelines."

The Republican-dominated mid-term elections earlier this month were "a bad day for Democrats who don't stand for anything," Patrick said. "When Democrats do stand for something -- as I've said in the past, 'grow a backbone' -- and stand up for what we believe, we win. Because what we believe is what the American people at home believe."

Patrick, 58, of Milton, who locally has laughed off nagging questions about whether he will run for president in 2016, circumspectly told Todd, "I've thought about it, but no, I can't get ready for 2016, and by the way this is the first elected office I've held. It's been two really challenging and fun terms, where I didn't run for the job to get another job -- just to do this job,"

Patrick remained a loyal cheerleader for President Obama, but acknowledged one "problem" his longtime pal has is not doing a better job touting the accomplishments of his administration, including the takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and a Wall Street in record territory.

"He doesn't tell that story very well and very regularly," Patrick said. "It's not to say that everything's been solved, we've reached the Promise Land, but we're certainly better off than we were."

Patrick also said he believes the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights investigation into the August shooting of unarmed teenage robbery suspect Michael Brown by former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson could be a "tough case."

He said the ongoing federal investiation is probably what is keeping Obama from visiting the city torn asunder by riots and protests over a grand jury's decision last week not to indict Wilson for Brown's death. Wilson resigned yesterday.

"I think he wants to go, by the way, and that's not because I know that. I just sense that, knowing the man. I think he'd like to be there to comfort the family of Michael Brown, who are having to relive this tragedy all over again, and to reassure both the community at large and the community of law enforcement," said Patrick, an assistant U.S. Attorney General specializing in civil rights under President Clinton. "I think the reason it's a quandry is because the federal government is investigating right now. You don't want to appear to influence that investigation."

Patrick counts himself among those who wanted Wilson indicted, "mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community. So many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not have to answer for the shooting of unarmed young black teenagers."

In what appeared to be a reference to the family of 13-year-old murder victim Steven Odom, Patrick said he could relate to the tough spot Obama finds himself in, recalling how a mother he did not name demanded he get involved in ending street violence during the early stages of his administration.

"We had a terrible loss of a teenage boy, a black boy, in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. It appeared to have been a gang-related killing of a marvelous kid from a marvelous family. The mother, in her anguish, called me out in the media and said, you know, 'Where is the governor?'" Patrick said, in an apprent reference to Kim Odon, the boy's mother, who made such a call after her son was murdered in 2007.

"Governors aren't normally expected to come to street-crime scenes. She hadn't called out the mayor (the late Thomas M. Menino)," Patrick said. "The expectations of me by virtue of being a black elected official were different, and I had to learn that. And ultimately, I did go out."

(c)2014 the Boston Herald