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Citizen Deval

Howard Manly | 7/15/2011, 1:45 p.m.
Massachusetts state Treasurer Tim Cahill (r), who ran for governor, and state Sen. Jack Hart, D-Boston (l), held up a poster with the superimposed head of current Gov. Deval Patrick, as Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino looked on at the annual St. Patrick’s breakfast in South Boston. AP /Michael Dwyer

In 2010, the margin was 147,417 votes. Patrick earned a total of 1,112,283 or about 48 percent. Baker came in second with 964,866 votes or 41 percent. Cahill pulled in 184,395 total votes — or more than the difference between Patrick and Baker. Given the state’s significant block of independent voters, no one can argue with any certainty that Cahill’s campaign vaulted Patrick back into the governor’s office — even factoring the nearly 40,000 votes earned by perennial Green party candidate Jill Stein. But it certainly helped.

Patrick’s win took on national implications — and established a new local standard. With the exception of Brooke, no other African American politician has had a predominantly white statewide constituency. While that suggests a transformation in white voter attitudes, it certainly has new ramifications for black voters, especially those more inclined to vote for candidates more outspoken on matters of race.

Like Brooke, Patrick did not make race an issue during his two campaigns, a fact that at least Brooke thought was the right strategy.

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.”

Beyond cynicism

Very few question Patrick’s “blackness.” But legitimate questions are raised on whether Patrick’s multi-billion dollar commitment to the state bio-tech and “green” industries will have a significant impact on minority neighborhoods plagued with poor academic performance and high crime. Others wonder what trickle down effect will be gained in Roxbury or Dorchester by giving state tax credits to Hollywood film crews.

To be sure, Patrick has done a better job of hiring and appointing blacks to the Statehouse, most notably Roderick Ireland, the state’s new Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, than previous administrations. He also maintained consistent funding to such long-standing education and social programs at Roxbury’s Freedom House and METCO.  And Patrick readily admits he doesn’t do a good job of trumpeting his accomplishments in gaining passage of an ethics reform bill or adopting a new law revamping the state’s criminal record keeping system.

But despite such major local accomplishments, Patrick’s re-election was seen more as a repudiation of the national republican resurgence, not the result of Boston black political power. Against a backdrop of global economic recession and political uncertainty, it was the one affirmation to a disastrous referendum on the first two years of  Obama’s presidency. Patrick’s win was all the more impressive in a state where blacks are only 5.4 percent of the population.

That Patrick led in the polls throughout the campaign over both Republican hopeful Baker and independent Cahill was no small matter either, particularly considering the noisy Tea Party Express movement that supported Brown and other conservative candidates across the country. Making things worse, the Republican Governors Association pumped $2 million in an advertising blitz to support Baker and paint Patrick as another tax-and-spend liberal in one of the nation’s bluest of states.