Patrick endorses Tolman in AG primary

Healey says governor part of ‘Beacon Hill club’

Gov. Deval Patrick waded into the tightest race on the Democratic primary ballot on Thursday by endorsing a political insider instead of a fresh-face newcomer whose run for office is reminiscent of the “outsider” campaign Patrick mounted in 2006.

Patrick, who rarely endorses anyone in primaries, backed former state lawmaker Warren Tolman over his challenger Maura Healey. Patrick said he is supporting Tolman because of his activist stands and because of all the help Tolman gave him during his 2010 reelection campaign. Tolman served as a stand-in for Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker during debate prep for the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Healey called the governor’s endorsement a backroom deal to maintain the party machine and hinted her opposition to casino gambling may be the reason.

“I knew when we got into this race that the Beacon Hill political establishment wasn’t going to line up with me,” Healey said in a statement. “I get that my opponent is from that world and sometimes the Beacon Hill club doesn’t like when an upstart comes along, galvanizes the grassroots, and threatens their chosen candidate. I also know I’ve taken some stances that upset the insiders, like casinos, which my opponent and his backers all desperately want.”

The governor’s surprise endorsement had observers scratching their heads over why the party’s leader jumped in on a battle with two candidates who share many of his views, especially when the candidate he dissed is running a campaign that reflects the approach he used when he first ran.

“It’s a little unusual when there’s a nonincumbent,” said Stonehill College political science Professor Peter Ubertaccio. “He’s not endorsing a slate of candidates, he’s just stepping in there… I suspect there’s some personal relationships . It will raise eyebrows, in part because this is a very competitive race of two progressive candidates.”

In a press release from Tolman’s campaign, Patrick said he was supporting Tolman because he’d be an “activist” attorney general. Though he didn’t mention Healey by name, Patrick said the race was between “two strong candidates with stellar credentials and experience running good campaigns.”

“I am endorsing Warren because I know from his campaign and from a deep personal relationship with him that he will be an activist AG, and I am excited about that,” Patrick said. “From gun safety to health care costs to consumer protection and civil rights, I want an AG who will not only enforce the law effectively, but also use the influence of the office strategically to improve the lives and prospects of Massachusetts people and small businesses.”

While Healey dismissed the endorsement as party politics, one of her advisers said it is puzzling because she built her candidacy much the same way Patrick did when he ran for office in 2006 as a little-known outsider who was not a creature of the Beacon Hill culture. Even their public service backgrounds are the same. Healey is former assistant attorney general under Martha Coakley who led the challenge to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Patrick, prior to running for governor, was the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.

“It’s certainly not something he’s done a lot before, if ever, but people that have a public office can take sides as they wish,” said Healey advisor David Guarino. “But it’s somewhat surprising because Maura built a grassroots organization from the ground, which also happens to be very similar to how the governor ran in 2006.”

On his weekly appearance on Boston Public Radio on WGBH, Patrick said it was Tolman’s support for his reelection that brought the two closer.

“He played a very special role in my own reelection campaign in 2010 both before the cameras and behind the cameras, mostly behind the cameras, and it’s something I feel very connected to him about,” the governor said. “He and his team were relentless.”

Political ties clearly play a role in the endorsement. Former Patrick aide Doug Rubin is a consultant to Tolman through his company DR and Associates. Rubin’s firm has been paid at least $45,000 so far this year by the Tolman campaign.

On the eve of the 2012 state convention, Patrick also endorsed Elizabeth Warren after insisting he was going to stay neutral in the race to select a challenger for then-Sen. Scott Brown. Rubin was Warren’s campaign adviser during that campaign.

But Patrick’s forays into primary politics have been rare. Other than Warren, he kept mum on other races in 2012 as well as during both years he ran for office. This year, he has endorsed Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Suffolk Sherriff Steve Tompkins, both of whom face primary opposition for their reelection bids. But both Ryan and Tompkins were appointed to their positions by Patrick when the incumbents left office.

“Endorsing incumbents is always looked at differently,” said Ubertaccio. “It raises far fewer eyebrows when the governor endorses the person he appoints.”

Ubertaccio said part of the puzzle is Healey’s stances on many civil rights issues mirror the governor’s and with Patrick’s desire to bring diversity to state government, the election of Healey as a gay woman would be historic.

“The governor has been such a passionate advocate for diversity and acceptance, you’d think he’d want to be careful of not standing in the way of that,” he said.

Healey insists Patrick’s imprimatur won’t matter.

“Ultimately, though, this is a race between us – there’s two names on the ballot,” she said. “People see this as a fundamentally different office, one which should be held by the person best experienced to lead and who is on the side of the people, not the side of Beacon Hill.”

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Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

In a close race with a progressive electorate, though, Ubertaccio said Patrick’s popularity can still shift the sand.

“I think that he still has enough appeal among Democratic voters to make a difference,” said Ubertaccio. “There’s two elected officials whose endorsements matter and carry weight: One is Deval Patrick’s, the other is Elizabeth Warren. A seal of approval from Deval Patrick can help in a close race.”