A Small Gripe As Deval Launches

Deval Patrick is doing a big re-elect campaign launch this weekend, with events around the state. I checked out the 'launch eve' event for young professionals (read: potential volunteers) at Game On last night. It was a good vibe; a diverse crowd of a couple hundred. Seeing Patrick political director Tito Jackson working the crowd, I was suddenly disappointed that the party wasn't featuring a new Patrick campaign groove, like the one Tito had for his city council campaign ("Vote for Tito Jackson/He's a man of action"). The governor arrived around 8:30, glad-handed a bit, then gave a brief pep talk. Seemed like a good scene, at least to give some staff and volunteers a nice time before the big weekend.

But I do have a small gripe for the governor. In his remarks, he framed the election as a choice between moving forward to tomorrow, or backward to yesterday (ie, when Republican governors ran things). And, he said, while all the other candidates are good people, "to a man, they want to take us back."

Well, technically, Patrick is in a primary campaign against Grace Ross. And since I don't think Patrick believes either that Ross is a man, or that she wants to take the Commonwealth backward, I took the line (along with the rest of his remarks) to be dismissive of her candidacy, and I find that a little unseemly and ungracious. (It is also dismissive of Jill Stein's candidacy, but I don't think he has the same obligation to minor candidates outside his party.)

Ross gave up a lot to run as a Democrat rather than on the Green-Rainbow ticket, as she did in 2006. She not only sacrificed the support of her fellow G-R Party cohorts, she also effectively took herself out of the most important part of the election cycle for a "message candidate" -- the final six weeks or so, when people are actually paying attention, and there are lots of candidate forums and debates. Ross's campaign will end -- at best -- in a little-watched September primary, and much earlier if she can't get 15% of the delegates at the Democratic state convention.

And, as far as I can tell, the only reason for her to run as a Democrat was to avoid potentially hurting Patrick by pulling votes from him in November. So, the Governor might want to show her some respect just out of gratitude for that.

But I'd also note that Ross is seeking to represent a fairly decent wing of the state Democrats who think that Patrick has been too centrist a governor. By treating Ross as a non-entity, Patrick could be seen as telling that contingent that he feels no obligation to campaign, or even ask for, their support -- that he's just putting them in his pocket and turning all his attention to the general-election swing voters. Of course, that's a legitimate political strategy, but I suspect those liberals feel they are owed some attention and persuasion.

All of this would be irrelevant if Ross is just some fringe kook; fringe kooks don't need to be respected in the political process. But I don't think Patrick sees Ross that way. And, I would suggest that thus far, even with very little in resources, Ross has run a far more serious, professional, substantive campaign than, say, Christie Mihos, who I think Patrick was including in that "to a man..." line.

I don't want to make a big deal out of this minor gripe; it's not like I think Patrick needs to be out talking about Grace Ross on the stump this weekend. The tenor just rubbed me the wrong way -- particularly for a guy who prides himself on a high-minded campaign approach.

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