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Candidate draws every county from the mountains to the sea

Deval L. Patrick (second from left) with his arms around his daughter Kathryn and wife Diane, watched election results yesterday with family and friends. Patrick was apparently able to overcome being outspent by both of his opponents.
Deval L. Patrick (second from left) with his arms around his daughter Kathryn and wife Diane, watched election results yesterday with family and friends. Patrick was apparently able to overcome being outspent by both of his opponents. (Dominic Chavez/ Globe Staff)

With huge victories in the small towns of the Berkshires and overwhelming majorities in the liberal strongholds of Brookline, Cambridge, and Newton, Deval Patrick yesterday drew enthusiastic support across the Commonwealth, tapping into an unusual coalition united by excitement over Patrick's charisma and biography and propelled by a desire for change on Beacon Hill.

Patrick, who launched his campaign 17 months ago a virtual unknown, initially drew support from the most affluent and educated voters. But yesterday's primary suggested that in the final weeks, he dramatically broadened his appeal; he won every county from the mountains to the sea, racking up victories even in more conservative Democratic strongholds such as Worcester and Attleboro.

But it was in the western part of the state where Patrick rolled up his most eye-popping margins. Patrick, who is building a summer home in Richmond, won more than 90 percent of the vote in tiny communities of Heath, Mount Washington, Richmond, and Wendell and topped 80 percent in the college towns of Amherst and Williamstown.

With results nearly complete, Patrick was also racking up majorities in more than 100 communities, despite having two opponents, including Provincetown, Wellfleet, Northampton, Nantucket, Concord, Lexington, and Wellesley. He won Boston handily.

``He has been able to build an exceedingly diverse coalition without working up much of a sweat, and it is a coalition, because it consists of fairly well educated, fairly affluent, white, self-described liberals, many of a secular bent, and African-American voters, and perhaps some Hispanic voters, who have less education, are not as affluent, and describe themselves as quite religious," said Ralph Whitehead Jr., a professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Several veteran political observers said it has been years since any candidate has touched off the kind of grass-roots energy that Patrick, a previously unknown and inexperienced candidate for governor, has generated.

Patrick was outspent by both of his opponents but won by assembling an unusually extensive network of volunteers and by exploiting his own compelling personal biography and dynamic speaking style.

Polls taken for the Globe over the last seven months show Patrick building support throughout the spring and summer among most demographic groups. He started off most strongly among the wealthy, highly educated, and the nonreligious; over time his appeal grew among all demographic groups, except those of middle-income ($60,000 to $75,000), those living in the outer ring suburbs between Route 128 and Interstate 495, and Democratic primary voters who identified themselves as conservative. ``What it says about him is that he has an ability to connect with people, to give them reasons not only to support him but to work for him, and I think he tapped into a sense that people want to believe in someone," said Jack Corrigan, a lawyer and a veteran of state Democratic politics.

Bruce Carter, 61, of Roxbury, took the day off from his job doing career counseling for seniors to hold a sign for Patrick outside a Mission Hill polling place. The last time he voted, he said, was for Clinton. The reason he's involved now is because of Patrick, he said.

``Other candidates just didn't interest me," Carter said. ``They're all talking about politics as usual. [Patrick] talks different, and he seems concerned, and he seems like he could move us forward."

Some voters appeared drawn to Patrick's biography; he was born in a housing project and wound up attending Harvard.

``A good story is a big piece of the battle, and his personal story is a very good one," said Michael Shea, another Democratic Party activist and consultant. ``We all love the Horatio Alger story -- Americans always have -- and this kid who didn't have all the advantages, who grew up in a tough family situation, who reached the top, and to say you're going to offer the same thing to others, people love that."

Although most analysts said that issues were not at the center of Patrick's appeal, they said his willingness to take potentially controversial positions on some issues, such as his support for same-sex marriage, for in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants, and his opposition to an immediate income tax cut, played well with some primary voters.

``I went with Patrick because I think he told the truth when he said if you roll back income taxes, you wind up with higher property taxes, and because I don't think public education gets enough support," said Janet Silberberg, a Randoph nurse interviewed as she left her polling place at Lyons Elementary School.

Patrick's campaign manager, John Walsh, said the campaign had assembled between 12,000 and 14,000 volunteers to reach out to voters through a combination of traditional methods, such as door-to-door canvassing and phone-banking, and new technologies, in particularly a password-protected Website that allowed all Patrick supporters access to the list of other supporters to build a network.

`` `You have to make contact with every household ,' " former governor Michael S. Dukakis recalled advising Patrick. ``It's not rocket science, but it is all about making the case on a personal basis."

Michael Paulson can be reached at Yvonne Abraham contributed to this report.

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