Deval Patrick officially announced a late-entry 2020 presidential campaign on Thursday, thrusting the former Massachusetts governor into an already crowded field of Democratic candidates less than three months before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
“In a spirit of profound gratitude for all the country has given to me, with a determination to build a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American Dream for the next generation, I am today announcing my candidacy for President of the United States,” Patrick said in a video on his official website.
The announcement is a stark reversal for Patrick, who decided in December 2018 not to run for president, citing in an interview the “cruelty of our elections process” and the impact it would have on those close to him.
Since that decision, though, Patrick has expressed regret for not getting into the race earlier this year and began seriously weighing a presidential campaign weeks ago. He began telling friends and allies in calls on Wednesday that he had made a decision to join the race, aware of the challenges awaiting his candidacy, yet also seeing promise in the unsettled nature of the primary fight.
Patrick’s entry comes at the same time that at least one other high-profile Democrat — former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — weighs a bid to take on President Donald Trump mere months before primaries and caucuses begin. The changing plans of Patrick and Bloomberg are stinging indictments of the current candidate field, especially former Vice President Joe Biden.
But even prior to Patrick’s announcement Thursday, voters across the country in polls and interviews have told CNN that they want the field of Democrats running to shrink, not grow.
After announcing his bid on Thursday morning, Patrick plans to travel to New Hampshire later in the day to file his papers for the primary there with the secretary of state’s office, his first official step in getting on primary ballots.
The odds could be incredibly steep for a late entrant like Patrick, 63, who is not well known nationally, does not have personal wealth to finance a campaign and is up against a history littered with failed late-entry candidates. Patrick has already missed the deadline to appear on the primary ballot in Alabama and Arkansas, which could be significant if the race becomes a delegate fight next year.
Still, despite the odds, he enters the race with some potential advantages: Patrick is from Massachusetts, which is next door to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation primary. And being one of the country’s first African American governors could be politically beneficial in South Carolina, where a majority of Democratic primary voters are black.
Patrick, born on the South Side of Chicago in 1956, was raised primarily by his mother after his father, a jazz musician, decided to leave the family and move to New York. Patrick excelled in school and, after a teacher pushed him, he applied for a scholarship and was accepted “sight unseen by Milton Academy in Massachusetts” for high school. Patrick would go on to study at Harvard, where he later received his law degree in 1982.
After years in private law practice, Patrick began his public service career in 1994 when then-President Bill Clinton nominated the then-partner at Boston law firm Hill & Barlow to be US Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights division. After serving in the Clinton administration, Patrick worked as a senior executive at both Texaco and Coca-Cola.
Despite entering the 2006 Massachusetts governor’s race as a longshot candidate, Patrick bested two better-positioned Democrats in the primary and later won the general election. Patrick successfully ran for reelection in 2010 against now-Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Throughout his career, Patrick has been compared to his friend, former President Barack Obama, in part because both have leaned on their personal stories and ties to Chicago to rise to political power.
Patrick’s first campaign for governor was helmed by political consultants David Axelrod and David Plouffe and his slogan — “Together We Can” — was seen as a precursor to Obama’s hopeful message in 2008. The two Democrats remain close to this day.
And Patrick’s connections to Obama’s political world continue. Before ruling out a run, Patrick had built a small but formidable team of advisers in Boston as he planned a 2020 bid and had the backing of some top aides from Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
Patrick’s work in the private-sector may create a political hurdle for his candidacy, particularly a job in 2015 he took at Bain Capital. The Boston-based private investment firm that became a liability to the 2012 presidential run of Republican Mitt Romney, another former Massachusetts governor and now a US senator from Utah.
Even before he made his candidacy official, several liberal activists blasted Patrick’s work at the firm. It could hang over him as he is entering a race where frontrunner Democrats have cast wealthy and powerful interests as the enemy of progressive policies.
“We knocked Romney for working at Bain Capital,” Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal Daily Kos blog wrote on Twitter. “Deval Patrick doesn’t get a pass for doing the same.”
Patrick last year defended his work at Bain Capital, telling CNN: “I’ve never taken a job where I’ve left my conscience at the door, and I haven’t started now.”