Deval L. Patrick, who rose from poverty on the south side of Chicago to corporate boardrooms and a top post in the Clinton administration, won the Democratic Party primary for governor tonight, becoming the first African-American to win a major party's nomination for the top job in the state.
Patrick far outpaced his two better known rivals, businessman Christopher F. Gabrieli and Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, with strong showings in blue-collar urban enclaves, in liberal and conservative suburban towns, and in Western Massachusetts. He also swept Cape Cod. Early returns showed Gabrieli running second and Reilly a distant third.
Reilly appeared before supporters at about 9:45 p.m. to congratulate Patrick for running an ``outstanding campaign" and to pledge to support Patrick. ``We gave it everything we had; it just didn't work out for us," Reilly said.
Gabrieli followed shortly afterward. ``I intend to work hard for Deval," he said.
Patrick built wide margins in liberal enclaves such as Cambridge, Newton, and Northampton. He also carried Boston, where Mayor Thomas M. Menino had put his organization behind Reilly, by well over 50 percent. Even in Quincy, where Gabrieli had the backing of the mayor and his political organization and where Patrick needed a strong win, Patrick was running even with Gabrieli after more than half the ballots were counted last night, with Reilly running last.
``Patrick has carried all kinds of different communities across the state, urban areas and suburban towns, and won support from all the Democratic and independent constituencies," said Doug Rubin, Patrick's senior campaign adviser.
Early returns showed that Reilly's strongest showing was in the Merrimack Valley where, with the help of local political figures, he carried Lowell and Billerica.
A political unknown when he emerged as a potential candidate in January 2005, Patrick, a 50-year-old Milton resident, recorded a stunning victory against two established and experienced political figures. He initially captured the interest of liberal party activists, sweeping the party caucuses in February of this year and then winning the endorsement of the party convention in June.
The primary campaign lacked much of the rancor that has marked previous statewide Democratic races. The candidates got into spirited debates over their differences on whether to roll back the state income tax and on immigration and crime. Patrick emerged unscathed despite concerns by his advisers that his business background -- which included defending major corporations in controversial cases that would rankle party activists and union leaders -- would come under attack.
Patrick now faces a tough, seven-week campaign that the state's Democratic leadership hopes will return the governor's office to the party's control for the first time since 1990. He will battle Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who was unopposed for the Republican nomination, independent Christy Mihos, and Green Rainbow Party nominee Grace Ross.
With ever-diminishing numbers in the House and Senate, much is at stake for the beleaguered Republican Party in this year's gubernatorial election. A Healey defeat would be a major blow to what little influence the GOP has at the State House.
Healey, who has made it clear she will spend millions of dollars of her own funds for her campaign, is expected to attack Patrick for his liberal positions, particularly to his opposition to rolling back the state income tax to 5 percent, his support of tuition breaks and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, and his positions on crime issues. She will also drive a theme, which has been effective in the past for GOP candidates, that the state needs a Republican governor to keep the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature in check.
Patrick, who is running on a platform that says he will bring change to state government and the politics of Beacon Hill, is expected to try to frame the campaign as a race between a political outsider versus a State House insider. Although Healey has served four years with Governor Mitt Romney, she has already spent $3.3 million for television advertising, much of which promotes her as the candidate for change.
To counter her charges, Patrick is expected to tout his corporate experience as chief legal counsel at Texaco and
The vote ended the most expensive gubernatorial primary race in the state history, with the campaigns spending more than $15 million in television ads. Gabrieli, a venture capitalist who used over $10 million of personal funds for his campaign, spent $8 million on television advertising.
But a key factor in Patrick's victory appears to have been the field organization that he and his staff built, which drew heavily on the Internet to organize supporters and to raise more than $1 million in campaign donations. His political base included 8,000 volunteers across the state, many of them new to politics, and a field organization that identified more than 100,000 committed Patrick voters.
Signs of a Patrick victory developed shortly before Labor Day, when his campaign began airing television ads, competing for the first time with Reilly and Gabrieli, who had been airing ads since mid-July. Despite their heavy spending on ads, Patrick, who had less money to spend, was able to remain in contention. A Globe poll taken Aug. 18 to 23 showed the race was a virtual dead heat.
According to top Reilly strategists, Patrick began to move into the lead in their polls shortly after his ad campaign started. By the time the three met in their first significant debate on Sept. 7, the race appeared to shifting in his favor. ``Patrick closed the deal just after Labor Day," said one Reilly campaign official.
Patrick, who attended Milton Academy on a scholarship and earned bachelor and law degrees from Harvard University, first appeared on the political scene 20 months ago, having just resigned as general counsel for Coca-Cola. In a Globe interview in January 2005, he said he was exploring a race for governor.
By April, he announced his candidacy. At the time, he was considered a long shot to beat Reilly, who was the early front-runner in the race.
As Patrick built an effective campaign organization and wooed activists, Reilly stumbled badly last January when his choice for a lieutenant governor running mate, state Representative Marie St. Fleur of Dorchester, was forced to withdraw two days after he had chosen her because of personal financial problems, including a federal tax delinquency.
Against the advice of some of his experienced advisers, Reilly had passed over Gabrieli in favor of St. Fleur, a decision that also came back to haunt him when two months later Gabrieli. decided to run for governor. He and Reilly appealed to the same moderate and conservative Democratic base.