The Massachusetts Governor's Race

Juan Williams discusses the top political news of the week with Democratic operative Donna Brazile and GOP strategist Robert Traynham. This week they talk about Massachusetts' Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick.

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TONY COX, host:

I'm Tony Cox, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

For a recap of this week's news from inside the Beltway, we go now to NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams in our Political Corner. Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS: Thanks, Tony.

I'm joined by Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000. Ms. Brazile now runs her own political consulting firm in Washington. She also writes columns and she's a professor. She's too much. And she joins me here at our NPR D.C. studios.

Also with us, gratefully, Robert Traynham. He's a political strategist for the Republican Party on Capitol Hill. Robert joins us via phone today from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he's out on the campaign trail.

Robert, Donna, thanks for joining us on Political Corner.

Ms. DONNA BRAZILE (Democratic Political Consultant): Thank you, Juan.

Mr. ROBERT TRAYNHAM (Republican Political Strategist): Thank you, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Let's start this session of Political Corner with a conversation about Deval Patrick, former activist in the Justice Department, now running for the Democratic - he's won the Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts. Donna Brazile, how will Deval Patrick do?

Ms. BRAZILE: Well first of all, earlier this summer, Deval Patrick, who was the deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton, he won the Democratic convention. And many people thought, well, the race was over with. Well, his opponents managed to spend millions of dollars in negative ads and negative flyers and mail, and yet he came out in top winning over 50 percent of the vote.

He will now face the lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, who Governor Mitt Romney has anointed as his successor. I think Deval, with the ability to rally Democrats - it is a blue state after all - I think Deval Patrick has a great chance to becoming the second elected African-American governor in our history.

WILLIAMS: But, Donna, in fact though, Mitt Romney, a Republican, has been the governor. It's a blue state, but gosh, they keep electing Republican governors.

Ms. BRAZILE: Absolutely. That's because often Democrats nominate candidates that are out of touch and out of synch with voters. Deval Patrick has had a terrific - he ran not only a terrific campaign but he has a terrific résumé. This is a guy who grew up in poverty, you know, basically a self-made person.

While serving in the Clinton administration he investigated hate crimes and abortion clinic violence. He enforced all of the anti-discrimination laws. He has a great chance in that blue state, in the Bay State, of winning the election this fall.

WILLIAMS: Robert Traynham, do you think that in fact Massachusetts residents are ready to turn over the governor's seat to a Democrat?

Mr. TRAYNHAM: As you know, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Kennedy have represented that state for a very long time. Very hardcore, liberal Democrats. However, if you take a look at the governor's seat you have Ms. Swift, you have Mr. Weld and you also have Mr. Romney that have been at the top for almost 15 years now.

So Massachusetts-ites(ph) often vote Democratic, obviously, when they are voting for someone for the office of senator. But when it comes to the gubernatorial race they often tend to go more with a Republican nod simply to have that check there.

Now there's no question about it that Mr. Deval is a very, very impressive person on paper. He seems like he's a very charismatic individual and he probably will get a lot of votes. But if I had to call the race right now I would still say, based on the trending of that state when it comes to gubernatorial races, it still probably will go to Ms. Healey.

WILLIAMS: When you say trending, you're looking at polls?

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, it's not only polling data but it's also voting behavior over the past 15 years. And again, for the past 15, almost 20 years now folks in the Bay State have always gone with a Republican, a moderate Republican I might add, as their chief executive.

WILLIAMS: Well, tell me a little bit about the opponent, Robert.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, Ms. Healey, as Donna said, is the lieutenant governor of the state. She has a very, very moderate voting record. In fact, you know, she pretty much embraces civil unions for gay couples. She also embraces an increase of the minimum wage. She also embraces, you know, cleaning up the environmental stuff up in Massachusetts. As you know, Massachusetts is a border state with the Atlantic Ocean.

So there's no question about it that she probably will eek out a win basically because she is the “incumbent,” and also too because she's a very charismatic individual in her own right. And because she has the endorsement of Mr. Romney. I'm almost positive that she's going to eek this out.

WILLIAMS: Donna Brazile, you have a woman. She'd be the first female governor of the state, I believe.

Ms. BRAZILE: No, Jane Swift was...

Mr. TRAYNHAM: That's not accurate. Jane Swift.

WILLIAMS: Jane Swift, okay. So she'd be the second female governor of the state. But basically here you have a white woman versus a black man.

Ms. BRAZILE: Oh look, there's no question that Deval Patrick will not only I think best this candidate in debates. But he has, as Robert put it, he has charisma. This is a guy who really did not have all the money, didn't have all of the Democratic endorsements. But he ran a phenomenal grassroot back-to-the-basics campaign. People are excited about him.

And this is the second opportunity I think the state of Massachusetts will be able to make history. Years ago, of course, when they voted the first African-American post-Reconstruction to the United States Senate. This will be an opportunity again for the Bay State to put an African-American not just in the governor's office but also to send a message to the country that the times have really changed.

Juan, looking across the country this political season - we only have a couple more primaries - but we now have three African-Americans running for governor this year. And this is a very historic year for - I call it for black men in politics.

In Ohio, of course, Ken Blackwell. He's struggling to retain, you know, some semblance of campaign momentum. In Pennsylvania, Lynn Swann, and then of course now Deval Patrick in Maryland. But we also have three...

WILLIAMS: No, in Massachusetts.

Ms. BRAZILE: In Massachusetts, I'm sorry. In Maryland, we have Anthony Brown as lieutenant governor candidate running on a ticket with a Democrat, Martin O'Malley. In New York, we have Dave Paterson running on a ticket with Eliot Spitzer. And now in Florida we have Daryl Jones, you know, a former Air Force captain, running on the ticket for lieutenant governor with Jim Davis.

So this is a great year for black males in politics.

WILLIAMS: You mentioned that...

Mr. TRAYNHAM: You know, I agree with that...

WILLIAMS: Go ahead, Robert.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: I agree with that. And also she very conveniently forgot to mention Mr. Steele of Maryland who is running ahead in the polls. I mean, look, there's no question about it that for black America this is a great year. Because win or lose, Republican or Democrat, there will be more African-Americans at the table when decisions are made, which is obviously an important thing for all people of color. So this is a great year for black Americans.

Ms. BRAZILE: I didn't forget to mention Michael Steele. I just forgot to mention the United States Senate candidates, and that's of course Michael Steele and Harold Ford of Tennessee.

WILLIAMS: One last thing, Donna, before you go. You mentioned debates, and you seem to feel that Deval Patrick will win in debates. Why did you say that?

Ms. BRAZILE: Because I think Massachusetts is one of those states. I mean this guy is so brilliant. He understands not just local issues and state issues. And he can talk about cleaning up the bay, he can talk about the Big Dig. But he can also talk about national issues and national trends. And I think for Massachusetts this is a historic opportunity for the voters up there. And Deval Patrick, you know, ran a grassroot campaign, talked about local issues, but more importantly he represents the future of that state.

WILLIAMS: And, Robert, you know, lots of people might think, gee, you know, especially Boston, there's a strong history of racist behavior. Is that going to work against Deval Patrick?

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Well, there's no question about it that Boston has always been a very segregated town. I mean even Ed Brooke, the former senator from Massachusetts who was a Republican who represented Massachusetts in the Senate I believe from 1968 to '78, has often said that that was always a thorn in his side.

There's no question about it that I think, unfortunately, racism still exists in that town. And Mr. Deval probably will have an uphill battle in terms of trying to change people's minds and opinions about African-Americans in general, particularly with folks that may be a little bit older than him.

WILLIAMS: All right. Robert Traynham, Republican political activist. He joins us by phone today from Pennsylvania, where he's on the campaign trail. And, Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000. Now a professor, political consultant and widespread, loved guru. Donna, Robert, thanks for joining us on Political Corner today.

Ms. BRAZILE: Thank you, Juan.

Mr. TRAYNHAM: Thank you, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Back to you, Tony.

COX: Thanks, Juan. Join us every Thursday for Juan Williams and his Washington insider right here on Political Corner.

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