Let’s Get the Party Started

A Party for the Governor-Elect. (Photo by Glenn Parker)

A Party for the Governor-Elect. (Photo by Glenn Parker)

Taylor Fife

The excitement at Deval Patrick’s victory celebration on Tuesday night seemed to represent the mood of Democrats all around the country. The Democratic candidate’s win after 16 years of Republican control of the executive branch in Massachusetts was very much in line with the dramatic Democratic take over of both houses of congress on the national level after 12 years of Republican rule there.

Only one year ago almost nobody in the Commonwealth had ever heard of Deval Patrick. After 18 months of vigorous campaigning he is known to every person in the state, and has the support of more than half the voters in Massachusetts. Patrick has also come to national prominence as one of 6 Democratic governors-elect to wrest control from Republican hands. As only the second black governor in United States history he has made a breakthrough that everyone across the country could not help but notice.

Patrick’s stunning landslide victory over incumbency has shown that Patrick does have political capital; capital that he is likely to spend as presidential elections draw near. Being so near to New Hampshire, one of the first states to vote in presidential primaries, Patrick may be hosting a slew of visitors vying for the democratic ticket in ’08. Senator Barack Obama has been in Massachusetts campaigning in support of Patrick, and may expect some favors in return if Obama decides to take a shot at the White House.

The energy at Patrick’s victory celebration was thick as thousands of supporters piled into Hynes Convention Center to cheer for the Democrats and hear the winners speak. Although the event was open to the entire general public, nearly all of the attendants had participated in some way with his campaign. So many people came that the area reserved for those that worked the campaign overflowed and even those that had put in dozens of hours campaigning were forced to watch from a long distance.

The amount of volunteers and supporters at the victory celebration was a reflection of the kind of campaign that Patrick ran. His emphasis on a grass-roots campaign required thousands of volunteers throughout the state. Patrick sought not simply to convince people to vote for him, but to get them to join him in his movement for change.

Many of the volunteers in attendance had worked phone banks, calling likely voters and reminding them to get to the polls before eight. Others went door to door on election night reminding those that had not voted that there were still a few hours left for their voices to be heard.

The idea that the campaign was not his own, but belonged to the people of Massachusetts was reiterated in nearly all of Patrick’s speeches and in his latest commercials. In his victory speech he said, “This has never been my campaign. It has always been yours. The real heroes here are the thousands of you, here and at home, many who have never been involved before in a political campaign, who set aside what you were doing to get involved, who confronted your despair about the direction our Commonwealth was heading in, and decided to take responsibility for her future.”

Deval Patrick took a different approach than many other campaigns; instead of spending millions of dollars buying television ads in the beginning, he used his money to organize volunteers into one of the largest grass-roots campaigns this nation has seen. He often avoided the spotlight and media in a way that seemed very un-political, but focused his attention on meeting individuals and traveling around the state introducing himself to every person that would talk to him.

Patrick also avoided negativity at every step in his campaign. When Kerry Healey went into attack mode, Deval Patrick did not spend his money attacking back, but calmly and quietly did his best to brush off accusations from the other side. Many Democratic leaders were wary about this tactic, remembering John Kerry’s defeat in 2004 that many felt occurred because of Kerry’s inability to fight back strong enough. Patrick finally proved that negative campaigning is not the only way to win. Patrick avoided negativity during the primaries as well, refusing to attack the Massachusetts legislature for giving a large pension to the widow of a deceased Senator. Thomas Reilly and many media outlets criticized the legislature sharply.

Democrats all across the state coasted to election. Martha Coakley, who ran for attorney general, won easily. Ted Kennedy dominated his little-known opponent, making him the 2nd longest serving Senator in history. Both Coakley and Kennedy spoke at the victory celebration, along with Senator John Kerry, Lt. Governor Tim Murray and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.