Will the Democratic Candidates for Governor Criticize Deval Patrick?

The answer to question 4 in today's Ask Bernstein Anything day.

“Ellito12” has an interesting query:

With the number of issues facing the Patrick Administration and presumably giving Charlie Baker fodder to associate this weaknesses with the Democratic Party as a whole, will the Democratic Gov. candidates become vocally critical of Patrick and his management of the administration?

This is very tricky. Primary voters, and especially the early activists, are unlikely to respond well to criticism of Deval Patrick—and carrying on the current course will also be a big message against Charlie Baker in the fall. So you don’t want to go off-message too much.

On the other hand, you would think that there’s an opportunity, especially with this DCF situation, to distinguish oneself by sounding like you’d actually fix the problems. I’m not really getting any sense of that so far, which might mean they’re all nervous about sounding anti-Deval, or simply that they don’t know what they could possibly say that sounds good on the subject.

Part of the problem is that nobody notices much except when someone takes a shot at Martha Coakley, and it’s hard to get a good shot in at Coakley for things happening on Patrick’s watch. Still, Grossman did get a slap at her on DCF, for allegedly saying one thing as a candidate and another as AG. So that’s something.

Anyway, in my own humble opinion, the message that a gubernatorial candidate should come out forcefully with is this:

Most of the managerial problems we’ve seen in the administration have been the direct result of Patrick naming, and sticking for six years with, JudyAnn Bigby as the head of Health and Human Services. I would never screw up such a major appointment that badly, and I welcome everyone to examine my record of hiring and oversight and compare against my opponents to see that they can trust me to get the right people in place—and boot them out if they’re not up to the job.

Of course, anyone who says that needs to have a pretty damn good hiring record to stand up to scrutiny. Also, they should be prepared to get the kinds of angry phone calls that I’m about to get.


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