A placard urges Democratic delegates to “finish what we started” by sending Gov. Deval Patrick back to the State House for a second term. (Erint Images photo)
|Gov. Deval Patrick listens to delegates air their concerns in the hall outside the DCU Center in Worcester. (Erint Images photo)
WORCESTER — Gov. Deval Patrick brought more than 4,000 cheering delegates at the party convention to their feet on Saturday, exhorting the Democratic faithful to elect him to a second term and finish the reform agenda he set out to achieve after his historic victory in 2006.
Framing the November race as a stark choice between progress and the failed politics of the past, the state’s chief executive spoke confidently of his administration’s accomplishments and accused his opponents of cynically hoping to build their electoral success on the rubble of a collapsing economy.
“We worked hard four years to change the guard,” said Patrick. “And now we have to guard the change.”
As delegates chanted, “Four more years!” and waved signs saying “Finish the Job!” the Bay State’s first black governor listed implementation of universal health care, rising student achievement, competition in auto insurance, surging job growth, tighter ethics rules, and transportation reform as signature achievements of his first term.
“We were hamstrung by years and years of Republican governors more interested in having the job than doing the job,” said Patrick, taking a jab at past officeholders like Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci, who left to pursue diplomatic postings, and Mitt Romney, who spent much of his last years in office preparing a run for the White House.
“Massachusetts is now on the mend and on the move,” said Patrick, adding that much remained to be done to restore the economy to pre-recession growth levels and build the infrastructure needed to spur that growth. “We didn’t shrink from making the tough calls if they were the right calls,” said the governor, who contrasted his tough-love approach to the state’s challenges with the rhetoric of his opponents, Republican Charles D. Baker and state Treasurer Tim Cahill, running as an independent.
Patrick called Cahill and Baker “good and decent people” but said their campaigns are based on hopes that the state’s recovery slumps, eroding faith in Patrick’s leadership. “They need Massachusetts to fail so that you will once again buy their empty promises,” he said.
Just a few months ago, those hopes seemed headed toward fulfillment, with job growth lagging, Patrick’s poll numbers tanking, fundraising anemic, and the shine on Baker’s leadership of a major health care company as yet untarnished by political attacks.
That was also before Cahill, a former Democrat, was whacked by millions of dollars of attack ads highlighting poor pension fund returns and campaign donations to Cahill from investment brokers who earned large fees from their work steering state money to clients.
The ads, sponsored by the Republican Governors Association, have driven Cahill’s latest poll numbers down to 14 percent, with much of his support migrating to Patrick, who leads the three-candidate field in latest surveys with 45 percent to Charlie Baker’s 31 percent — a 10-point jump for Patrick in the Rasumussen poll over the last month.
Patrick, introduced at the convention by his daughter Katherine, exuded confidence as he took to the stage and threw down the gauntlet, re-capturing some of the excitement his insurgent candidacy generated four years ago. He urged delegates to shoulder their “generational responsibility” to change the way Beacon Hill works.
“This is our campaign. This is our cause. This is our time!” said Patrick.
Patrick, whose standing began to significantly improve after his highly visible leadership during the water-main break crisis, worked delegates aggressively before his speech, appearing at numerous receptions and meeting informally in the hallways outside the floor.
Patrick has also boosted his fundraising. He crossed the $1 million mark in May, but still trails Baker, with $2.3 million, and Cahill, who has about $3.4 million in his campaign account.
At a party on convention eve sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern D-Mass., Margaret Rwaramba, a social worker from Worcester, admired the governor as he danced beneath a white tent to a rhythm and blues band and handed her camera to a friend to get a photo with the chief executive as he came off the floor.
“He deserves a second term because he has done a good job with the economy in Massachusetts — better than he’s given credit for,” said Rwaramba before putting the governor in an arm-lock for a trophy photo.
The Associated Press contributed to the report.
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