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Mass. Gov. Patrick urges voters to channel anger

Mass. Gov. Patrick urges voters to channel anger
Gov. Deval Patrick delivered the State of the State address last Thursday, only two days after Scott Brown defeated Attorney General Martha Coakley for the U.S. senate seat, formerly held by Ted Kennedy. The governor recommended that lawmakers not cut education aid to Massachusetts cities and towns. Patrick is seeking re-election in the fall despite slumping poll numbers, but vows to continue work on improving the economy and fighting for more jobs. (Photo: Tony Irving)

Gov. Deval Patrick, delivering his state of the state address just two days after the surprise election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate, urged voters to channel their anger in a positive direction.

Patrick congratulated Brown on his win and said he hears “a public deeply frustrated with the pace of change, who need a little help from us right now.” He also acknowledged Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley who lost.

Coakley, who attended the speech, rose as the joint meeting of the Massachusetts House and Senate gave her a standing ovation and state Auditor Joseph DeNucci held her hand aloft.

Brown, who did not attend the address, staged his upset win in part by tapping into voter anger with what he labeled the “Democratic machine.”

Patrick said he understands people are upset, but said as governor he has taken on the status quo by helping push through bills that overhaul the state’s ethics, transportation and pension systems.

“Be angry — but channel it in a positive direction,” Patrick said. “It’s easy to be against something. It takes tough-mindedness and political courage to be for something.”

Patrick also vowed to improve the economy and fight for more jobs, which he mentioned at least eight times in the speech. Patrick said he’s helped plant the seeds for more high tech, life sciences and green energy jobs.

But Patrick’s jobs message was undercut by the announcement last Thursday that the state’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.4 percent in December after dropping for two consecutive months.

There were few policy announcements in the address, although Patrick did recommend lawmakers not cut education aid to Massachusetts cities and towns.

Patrick also said he’ll continue pushing for a sentencing reform bill, and will continue looking for ways to help lower property taxes.

In his speech Patrick, who has said he is seeking re-election in the fall despite slumping poll numbers, also conceded that “our task was  made harder by bumps along the road — some of my own making,” but didn’t specify which ones.

In building a case for his re-election, Patrick reminded voters that he just this week signed a bill designed to encourage more charter schools and narrow the achievement gap between richer and poorer districts.

Patrick also said he would recommend lawmakers maintain state education to cities and towns.

Patrick’s critics said he has failed to turn around the state’s economy.

House Republican leader Rep. Brad Jones faulted the speech for being light on specifics. He said Patrick campaigned on a promise to lower property taxes, which have continued to rise since he was elected.

He said Patrick again failed to say how he would keep that promise.

“No amount of hope and happy talk in tonight’s speech is going to help to deal with the real problems that we face either fiscally or beyond,” said Jones (R-North Reading).

Republican Charles Baker, the former president of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and a candidate for governor in next fall’s election, posted a video on his Web site faulting Patrick’s performance as governor, saying he turned a $1 billion surplus to a $3 billion deficit.

“The unfortunate truth is that Beacon Hill is broken and our state is a mess,” Baker said. “While the governor gave state workers a raise, he watched unemployment spike to 9.4 percent.”

Patrick countered the criticism, saying that the state is starting to turn the corner on the economy. Even with the uptick in unemployment in December, the state’s jobless rate is still better than the national average.

He also said there are other signs of recovery, including a steady rise in business confidence and an increase in home sales.

“For the first time in 20 years, more people are moving into our state than are moving out,” Patrick said.

Despite having served as governor for three years, Patrick again tried to position himself as a political outsider — a theme Patrick used during his 2006 campaign.

“I hear the detractors who fiercely or passively defend the status quo. I hear the challengers pressing to return to old, familiar ways,” Patrick said. “These are tough issues, I know. But by now you should know, my friends, not to doubt my resolve or my determination.”

Associated Press