World News

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick jumps into Democratic presidential race, swelling field

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday said he was seeking the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination despite an already crowded race in an effort to bring a divided country - and splintering political party - together.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick listens to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner while filing paperwork for his name to appear on the state’s first-in-the-nation primary ballot in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Patrick, a 63-year-old African-American and close ally of former President Barack Obama, said he respected the field of nearly 20 Democrats seeking to challenge Republican Donald Trump in next November’s election.

But he said he was concerned there was too much focus on either nostalgia for the way things used to be done or insisting that big ideas were the only path ahead.

“Neither of those, it seems to me, seizes the moment to pull the nation together,” Patrick told CBS News.

In a campaign video announcing his bid, Patrick cited anxiety and anger among Americans who feel their government and the economy has let them down. He said he was determined “to build a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American dream for the next generation.”

“This time is about the character of the country,” he said in the video. “This time is more than removing an unpopular and divisive leader, as important as that is, but about delivering instead for you.”

The Harvard-trained lawyer and two-term former governor resigned on Wednesday as a managing director of the Boston investment firm Bain Capital, a company spokesperson said.

Patrick joins a field dominated by Obama’s former vice president, Joe Biden, a moderate, and two progressives, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Another centrist, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has made preparations over the past week to get on the ballot in two states as he weighs a presidential bid.

The late entries less than three months before the first nominating contests highlight the volatility of the race and Democrats’ worries that Biden’s candidacy may be weakening.

The apparent ascendance of Warren in opinion polls also concerns some Democrats who fear the liberal firebrand pushing Medicare for All healthcare may not attract enough moderates and Republicans who dislike Trump to deny the president a second four-year term.

Patrick told “CBS This Morning” he does not support Medicare for All “in the terms we’ve been talking about” but does back a public healthcare option, as well as student debt reduction.

Asked about a wealth tax, Patrick said “taxes should go up on the most prosperous and the most fortunate, not as a penalty but because we all have a stake as a national community in building our future.”

The new efforts by Patrick and Bloomberg reflect a popular desire for a centrist candidate who can beat Trump, said Joe Keefe, chief executive of Pax World Funds and a past chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, in an interview on Thursday.

Keefe said he is standing by his endorsement of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, noting he backed her “for reasons I think are similar to why Patrick and Bloomberg are getting in.”

“There’s a yearning for a candidate who could capture the centre,” and a fear that Warren and Sanders would prove too far left for a general election, he said.

Patrick faces a steep challenge. He is entering too late to participate in Democrats’ upcoming debate in Atlanta, and the December debate in Los Angeles will have the strictest polling and donor qualifying thresholds yet.

He will file paperwork for the primary ballot in New Hampshire and then target California, Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina, the New York Times said, citing a Democrat familiar with his plans.

As governor from 2007 to 2015, Patrick was credited with implementing Massachusetts’ healthcare reform plan passed under his predecessor, Republican Mitt Romney. The state’s first African-American chief executive, Patrick also reformed its pension system, reworked the transportation department and raised the minimum wage.

He previously served as assistant attorney general for civil rights under former Democratic President Bill Clinton. In 2014, Obama told a Boston television station that Patrick would make “a great president or vice president.”

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Sharon Bernstein; additional reporting by Chibuike Oguh and Ross Kerber; Editing by Colleen Jenkins