After three months of assessing his chances, Milton lawyer Deval Patrick is expected to announce today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
Patrick has told associates that he has concluded that he can assemble a campaign staff and raise the necessary money to deliver a message that will resonate with Democratic primary voters and recapture the governor's office for the first time since the 1986 election, one of his top campaign advisers said yesterday.
''He has a made a decision to run," said the adviser, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. Patrick, who will become the state's first major black candidate for governor, is expected to give interviews to the media today and then officially launch his bid for the 2006 party nomination early next fall.
Yesterday, Patrick, operating from an increasingly busy downtown headquarters on Milk Street, began calling supporters to tell them of his decision. Over the last few weeks -- a period one aide described as a ''shake-down cruise" for the campaign -- Patrick hired a campaign manager and put together a team of political and media advisers.
His team has designed a red, black, and white bumper sticker bearing his campaign theme ''Believe Again." Patrick's pitch is expected to tout ''his life experience." A business executive and top Justice Department official, he is the son of a woman on welfare from Chicago's south side who won a scholarship to Milton Academy and went on to Harvard University for undergraduate and law degrees.
Patrick becomes the first serious challenger to Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, who has drawn support from much of the Democratic Party's establishment. Secretary of State William F. Galvin is also giving consideration to running. Patrick's entrance into the race is expected to encourage Galvin to run.
''This reshapes the race and creates some uncertainty over who will be the Democratic nominee," said former state senator George Bachrach, who is active in the liberal wing of the party. Bachrach, who ran unsuccessfully for the party's gubernatorial nomination in 1994, said he will probably back Patrick's candidacy.
''This provides a choice," Bachrach said. ''They are both good candidates. Tom Reilly is a good and decent person, but he took some positions against gay marriages and for the death penalty that are difficult for some Democrats to accept." Reilly initially opposed gay marriage but more recently said he has come to accept it since its implementation last May.
Reilly has emerged early as the front-runner, with a Globe poll indicating a 48 to 41 percent lead over Governor Mitt Romney. But some Democrats on Beacon Hill and among the party's top ranks fear that his low-key style will not generate the excitement that a candidate will need for the party to break the GOP's grip on the governor's office.
Reilly, having built a campaign donor base during his years as Middlesex County District attorney and as attorney general, has amassed a $2.5 million war chest and is focused on raising another million or more by the end of the year. Some strategists estimate a primary campaign may cost $5 million or more.
Patrick is starting from scratch in fund-raising, with his only advantage being his personal wealth that he gained as general counsel to Texaco and the
Philip W. Johnston, the state Democratic party chairman, said he welcomes Patrick's entrance into the race.
''A spirited positive campaign based on issues can only help the eventual nominee," Johnston said.