BOSTON (AP) — A look at some of the highs and lows of Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s two terms in office:
Patrick, a former assistant US attorney general in the civil rights division and Coca-Cola executive easily defeated Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in the 2006 gubernatorial election. He was sworn in as governor on Jan. 4, 2007, accepting in his inauguration speech what he called a “profound responsibility.” Patrick, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, was the state’s first black governor and only the nation’s second-elected black chief executive after former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder. He won a second term in 2010 after a hard-fought race with Republican Charlie Baker. Baker will now succeed Patrick after defeating Democrat Martha Coakley in November.
Massachusetts suffered, with the rest of the nation, the impact of the Great Recession that began about a year after Patrick took office. Overall employment dropped from an estimated 3,312,100 jobs in November 2007 to a low of 3,184,200 in October 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Patrick was forced to lay off thousands of state workers and cut deeply into the budget, including some social safety net programs and municipal aid. But Massachusetts would outpace much of the nation in recovering from the economic downturn. The state’s unemployment rate remained below the U.S. rate for nearly all of Patrick’s administration and by November 2014, employment in Massachusetts was estimated at 3,438,500 — more than a quarter of a million more jobs than in October 2009.
BETTING ON BIOTECH
Patrick saw the burgeoning life sciences industry as a potential key driver of the state’s economic future and believed state government could play a role in nurturing that sector. Among his early legislative successes in 2008 was a 10-year, $1 billion initiative to invest in biotechnology, medical device and related companies. The Dukakis Center at Northeastern University said in a June report that employment in the industry had grown by 17.5 percent since 2006 and that Massachusetts had the nation’s highest per capita employment in life sciences.
ROLLING THE DICE
Patrick once complained that the long debate over casino gambling at the Statehouse was “sucking all the oxygen out of the building.” Patrick refused to sign a casino bill in 2010 because of concerns that it would essentially give racetracks no-bid contracts to install slots machines. But he would sign off the following year on a re-crafted bill that allows for three regional resort casinos and one slots parlor. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, created under the law, has since awarded licenses for casino developments in Springfield and Everett, and a slots parlor is slated to open next year in Plainville.
Patrick has said in the past that the April 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line, and the days that followed rank as the most emotional and trying of his administration. Four days after the bombing, after one of the two brothers suspected in the attack was killed in a shootout with police, Patrick issued an extraordinary “shelter-in-place” directive to more than one million Boston-area residents, virtually shutting down a large swath of the metropolitan region while police searched for the other suspect. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured hours later, hiding in a boat in Watertown, shortly after the lockdown was lifted.
SECOND TERM WOES
A series of setbacks buffeted Patrick’s second term, with critics pointing to management failures in state government. The disappearance of a 5-year-old boy — later found dead — exposed weaknesses in the state’s child welfare agency. A chemist in a state drug testing lab was charged and later convicted of tampering with evidence, throwing in doubt thousands of criminal convictions. The state struggled with the rollout of a voter-approved medical marijuana program and not a single dispensary has yet opened in Massachusetts. And a breakdown of the health connector website blocked a smooth transition from the state’s first-in-the-nation universal health insurance system to the federal Affordable Care Act, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into temporary Medicaid coverage.
Rebuilding the state’s decaying transportation infrastructure was one of Patrick’s key priorities during his two terms, with mixed results. Lawmakers rejected an early proposal by Patrick to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 19 cents. In 2013, a transportation financing law that included a modest increase in the gas tax was approved, but the revenue provided was less than the governor sought and further reduced when the Legislature repealed a tax on computer software services. Still, Massachusetts appears on track to move forward with several key projects, including expansion of commuter rail to the South Coast region and a renovation of Boston’s South Station.