Patrick Maintains Lead in Mass. Governor's Race Farai Chideya talks with Michel Martin about the Massachusetts governor's race between over Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and Democrat Deval Patrick. Patrick staked an early lead over Healey, and he's kept it into the home stretch.
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Patrick Maintains Lead in Mass. Governor's Race

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Patrick Maintains Lead in Mass. Governor's Race

Patrick Maintains Lead in Mass. Governor's Race

Patrick Maintains Lead in Mass. Governor's Race

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Farai Chideya talks with Michel Martin about the Massachusetts governor's race between over Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and Democrat Deval Patrick. Patrick staked an early lead over Healey, and he's kept it into the home stretch.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Now we turn to Massachusetts, where Democrat Deval Patrick has staked an early lead over Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. He's kept it in the home stretch. I spoke with NPR's Michel Martin about Patrick and how we wasn't a typical candidate.

MICHEL MARTIN: He had never run for office before and he was competing against two much better known challengers. One of them the attorney general, the previous office holder, and the other one a very wealthy venture capitalist who had been very involved in political affairs. But he had a commanding lead well into the primary. He surged in the last few weeks before the primary and he decisively beat those challengers. So he went into the general election with a very strong grassroots organization and tremendous goodwill.

Really, it's almost magical in a way. He got people excited about voting - very hard to do in a midterm race. People tend to focus on presidential years. But he is very well positioned. He is going into the final stretch with a 20-point lead, which is quite remarkable.

CHIDEYA: Deval Patrick has been faced with some advertisements that call attention to the fact that he donated money to the legal cause of a convicted rapist. Why didn't those make a difference in the race?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, let's talk about what those ads were perhaps intending to do subliminally. We haven't mentioned that Deval Patrick would be the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, a state that does not have a large African-American population. He would only be the second elected African-American governor in the United States since Reconstruction. This is -he's poised for a truly sort of remarkable sort of moment, historically.

Anyway, these ads that his opponent ran seem to suggest that he is, you know, soft on crime; it pushes all kinds of kind of cultural buttons. Kerry Healey only had two choices, really.

Patrick is so personally popular. He went into the general election with such a strong support from the Democratic voters in a state that is predominantly Democratic, that you really only had two choices. One is to soften him up personally to kind of tarnish his reputation, make people like him less. And the second choice she had was to help voters see that they actually agree with her more on the issues than they do with him. It just didn't work.

It didn't work because he had already had a reservoir of goodwill. It didn't work because the voters in Massachusetts, like a lot of voters around the country, seemed to be in the mood for change. Republicans have held the governor's office since 1990, which is quite remarkable again in a predominantly Democratic state. And it didn't work because Patrick has created a very strong grassroots base that stayed with him and liked him.

CHIDEYA: You know, again, you already mentioned that Republicans have held the governor's office for 20 years. Why wouldn't that give Kerry Healey the leg up?

MARTIN: Well, in part, it's an interesting - I don't know, fluke isn't quite the right word. But the reason that Massachusetts Republicans have held that office for so long is that, number one, they've had better candidates in the past, I mean William Weld succeeded Michael Dukakis after he had a failed run for the presidency. He did not have a particularly attractive Democratic opponent. He had the right combination of issues for Massachusetts. He was socially progressive.

He was, you know, pro-choice, but he was considered kind of fiscally conservative. And a lot of Massachusetts voters like the idea of kind of split government. You have a Democratic legislature and they like the idea of kind of having a watchdog in the statehouse. And so that's really been one of his Healey's arguments is that, you know, we really need to keep a Republican in the statehouse as a watchdog against the Democratic legislature. But one of the reasons it's not working is that the voters are feeling that maybe it is time for change in that office as well.

And there's a general drift away from the Republican Party in Massachusetts as there are in some other key states, in part because of the unpopularity of President Bush and his policies.

CHIDEYA: Well, Michel Martin, thank you so much.

MARTIN: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: That was NPR's Michel Martin.

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