Desperately Seeking Deval
On the July afternoon when Patrick whipped up soup and sandwiches for a visitor at Sweet P Farm, he had just signed the three reform bills and the budget, initiating a midgame in his administration that would be measured in months or years, depending on the results of the 2010 election (and, perhaps, the comings and goings in President Obama’s cabinet). Wrangling over line items was under way; his staff was putting the finishing touches on proposed legislation that would lift the caps on charter schools.
The list of potential campaign opponents had also begun to shape up. There was no Democratic challenger in view, but Tim Cahill, the state’s treasurer, had left the party to set up a potential run as an independent. On the Republican side, Christy Mihos was in again, as was Charlie Baker, the president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and a former aide to Governor Bill Weld. Baker was regarded as a formidable challenger, an opponent to worry about. After he announced his candidacy, Therese Murray immediately issued a statement saying she had “a great deal of respect” for Baker.
There was an upcoming surgery to worry about, too, a hip replacement in early September that would put Patrick on crutches for a while. He and Diane, who came in and out of the kitchen while her husband cooked, joked about his squeamishness over needles and other medical indignities.
Out on the patio during lunch, Patrick’s cell phone rang. It was Baker, for whom he had left a message earlier in the day. They had been undergraduates at Harvard at the same time, and knew each other slightly. Patrick said, “I just want to welcome you warmly to the race. I think there are real philosophical differences between us, and I look forward to discussing them…. I’m aware of the wear and tear on you and on your family…. I see you as my competitor and not my enemy…. Keep this number. Call if you need to.”
When he was off the phone, the governor said, “It’s possible that circumstances”—by which he meant the economic crisis—”will sharpen the mind, and we won’t devolve into the usual rhetoric. I think people are hungry for someone just leveling with them.” (Soon the lieutenant governor, Tim Murray, to whom Patrick delegates much of his political aggression, would be attacking Baker as a leading culprit behind the Big Dig and the nation’s healthcare problem.)
The discussion turned to the topic of a graduated income tax, which citizens kept raising at community forums. “The question that’s always begged in this is, What do we want government to do? Is this the way to generate more revenue?” Patrick said. “There’s so much work we have to put into a civic conversation about this. Using the media available, the question is, Can we have that conversation?” Asked if it was really possible to conduct such a conversation with 6.5 million people during a campaign via newspapers, TV, radio, YouTube, and Twitter, he said, “I believe that the approach has to be to see the commonwealth as a series of rooms full of people.”