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Patrick back to work under intense scrutiny

Says he'll remain full-time governor

Governor Deval Patrick said he'll perform his duties. 'I have a job to do.' Governor Deval Patrick said he'll perform his duties. "I have a job to do."

FALL RIVER -- Yesterday was, in many ways, a typical day for Governor Deval Patrick. In the morning, he visited a school. After lunch, he met with advocates and opponents of gambling expansion. Then he was off to his weekly meeting with legislative leaders, to discuss healthcare and the state budget.

But even for a man who is used to dealing with "10 different issues that demand 100 percent of my attention," as he put it, he acknowledged to reporters yesterday that his wife remains "very much" on his mind.

"Listen, my wife is --" he said quietly, his voice catching a little, "the center of my world."

Yesterday was Patrick's first day back on the job since his office announced Saturday that he would scale back his weekend and evening hours to spend more time with his wife of 22 years, Diane, who is suffering from exhaustion and depression. Asked how long he would work a flexible schedule, he said, "As long as it takes."

A state official said yesterday that Diane Patrick, a prominent Boston lawyer, had gone to a hospital for treatment, but it was unclear when, where, or for how long and whether she remained an inpatient.

The news put the governor, whose missteps forced him to weather a storm of media attention during his first months in office, under the microscope more than ever before. He held two heavily attended press conferences yesterday; at each he was pelted with questions about his wife.

Some questions seemed to try his patience. Asked if he was considering stepping down, he seemed incredulous. "Thank you for the question," he said.

Later in the day, when asked whether "the potential for health issues" had been a concern when he was deciding whether to run for governor, he said a bit sharply, "Thank you for the question and for your concern, but I am not going to answer that."

Even for a new governor who endured 20 months on the campaign trail, it was an intense day. In the morning, as he sat talking with students and teachers at a middle school in Fall River, the doors opened and about 30 reporters, photographers, and television camera operators crowded in to watch.

"All right, act natural, everybody," the governor said, to nervous laughter.

One of Patrick's senior campaign strategists, Doug Rubin, attended the Fall River event, fueling speculation that the governor may be bringing in reinforcements. Rubin and John Walsh, Patrick's campaign manager, were considered the masterminds behind Patrick's unexpectedly successful campaign, and political veterans have been saying for weeks that Patrick could again use their guidance.

Patrick has been criticized recently for leasing a high-end car and expensive office furnishings and for making a call he made on behalf of a controversial mortgage company.

Critics have also questioned his decision to hire a $72,000-a-year aide for his wife.

"I think everyone who's been supportive of the governor is trying to be helpful right now," Rubin said.

Walsh said yesterday he is not considering taking a job on the governor's staff.

Asked about a staff shake-up, Patrick said he thought there is a good balance between political newcomers and veterans on his staff.

He added, "There are a number of people I consult with who are not on the team and who are not in the government, and I'm going to continue to do that, as well."

Patrick emphasized that he would remain a full-time governor. He said that even before the weekend announcement concerning his wife, he had been spending time with his staff determining "how to focus my own time on the things that are most important that I touch." He plans to continue doing so, Patrick said.

"You are going to see me consistently perform my duties," he said. "I have a job to do."

The governor has no public events scheduled for today, but has a number of meetings scheduled with lawmakers and constitutional officers, an aide said.

Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray plans to handle a meeting with a delegation of officials from Limerick, Ireland, and later will meet with the governor's Local Advisory Commission, a responsibility often handed off to the second in command.

At the Fall River school yesterday, the governor spoke about his wife haltingly, as if to steady his voice. He began by thanking the public for their "expressions of support and prayers" for his family. "It means a lot to us," he said. "It means a lot to her."

He said the decision to issue a statement about her condition was "a delicate consideration."

"We're not ashamed of it; depression is something that a lot of people suffer from," he said. "It was important to us to be as forthcoming as we could without invading her or our privacy, and it's a judgment we made."

But, sounding protective, he declined to discuss her condition or to discuss how the strain of being in such a high-profile position had affected his family. "We're going to be fine," he said, "and we're hopeful."

The Fall River event was designed to promote the extended school day, a major education initiative in Patrick's budget, and the governor was flanked by a bevy of local officials who had only praise for his fortitude and dedication.

One of Patrick's Democratic primary rival, Christopher F. Gabrieli, who is also a strong advocate for extended learning time, extolled Patrick's decision to keep his commitment to attend the event on a day when it would have been easier to cancel.

"What I saw today was a governor fully embracing his job," he said.