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Patrick makes pitch for presidential candidacy

Former governor rallies supporters in Grove Hall

Kenneal Patterson
Patrick makes pitch for presidential candidacy
Former Gov. Deval Patrick at the Prince Hall auditorium in Grove Hall. PHOTO: KENNEAL PATTERSON

Former Gov. Deval Patrick rallied supporters for his 2020 presidential campaign in Grove Hall on Jan. 22, bringing with his “Deval for All” slogan a message of inclusivity to a crowd of several hundred. 

“The politics that I have been about, and am still about, is never about me. It’s about you,” he said. “It was about reknitting our sense of community, not building a political machine. It was about turning over to you a confidence that we could shape our own future. That we could make a better tomorrow.”

The former governor said that all over the country, people have been feeling “unseen and unheard.” Young people are paralyzed by student debt or trapped by criminal records. Suburban parents are using credit cards and food pantries to make ends meet. Kids in rural communities are forced to “move away to make a way,” deserting their homes for opportunities elsewhere.

“It used to be just us — folks from my own neighborhood, on the South Side of  Chicago, who felt unseen and unheard in that kind of political conversation,” he said. “Just us, who weren’t counted, somehow, by the statistics, by the rosy picture, by the sense that we were about to move forward. Just us. But not anymore.”

Patrick’s message of unity seemed to resonate with the crowd of supporters who filed into the Prince Hall auditorium.

“The most important issue is to bring the United States back together,” Tito Jackson, former District 7 city councilor, told the Banner. “We have the most divisive, racist, separatist, nationalist leader that has been around at least in my lifetime. And we need actual leadership.”

Jackson cited Patrick’s experience in both the public and private sector. After graduating from Harvard, Patrick practiced law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1994, Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. All that came before Patrick was elected the first African American governor of Massachusetts, serving two terms from 2007 to 2015.

“I believe Governor Patrick has a demonstrated history of bringing the state of Massachusetts back, in one of the most difficult economic times, which was obviously the 2007 mortgage crisis,” Jackson told the Banner. “He brought our state back. We came out of that crisis faster and stronger than any other state in the union.”

Jackson also expressed respect for Patrick’s ability to keep Massachusetts schools at “number one” and for the state’s strong job growth.

“We have an amazing leader that we should export to the rest of the country,” he said.

Critics have voiced concern over Patrick’s late entry into the presidential race. Leading candidates, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, announced their candidacy in February of 2019. Patrick has said he was also ready to announce his candidacy last year, but his wife, Diane Patrick, was diagnosed with cancer at that time.

Diane Patrick, who was present at the rally, told the Banner she was diagnosed in the weeks before the launch. Although her husband had a plan and had thought it through, everything changed with the diagnosis.

“It’s exactly the sort of thing that just brings your feet back to ground,” Deval Patrick said. “So we stepped back. That seemed like the right thing to do, I still think that was the right thing to do at the time.”

By Wednesday, he said, he had visited 15 events and three states in the last two-and-a-half days.

At-large City Councilor Julia Mejia acknowledged Patrick faces an uphill battle vying for the Democratic nomination, but said voters may find his message appealing.

“I do believe that people, especially people who are looking for someone and something to believe in, might be inspired by his message,” she said. “And so, better late than never.”

Bishop John M. Borders III, of Morning Star Baptist Church, said he thinks we will all be “pleasantly surprised” with Patrick’s campaign.

“I think it will be curious to see someone who started back so far in the race and so late in the game, to see what God is actually going to do with him and for the country,” he said.

Marilyn Anderson Chase, former state assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, is ultimately concerned with the state of the country under Trump’s administration.

“The evil [Trump] represents has deep roots,” she said.

Patrick was less pointed in his criticism, but only slightly.

“You know we have a president who is unfit and unkind,” he said. “What kind of great nation separates and cages children to discourage their parents from seeking refuge from violence? What kind of great nation cuts SNAP benefits when everybody’s hungry? What kind of great nation cuts school support? Or tries to take health care away from people or make it more expensive for folks? And all of us, on one level or another, are just exhausted by the cruelty. Day after day, we ask ourselves, can it get worse? And then it does.”

Diane Patrick said that if changes don’t happen in the administration, then the country might not be recognizable after another four years.

“What I have asked him, is to help us save our democracy,” she told the Banner. “And that’s a big, tall order.”

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