BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick turned 57 yesterday, but another significant number for that day is 2,401 — the number of days he has been in office — making him the longest-serving Massachusetts governor since Michael Dukakis.
“That’s an exciting milestone,” said John Walsh, the departing state Democratic Party chairman, who helped secure Patrick’s first electoral victory in 2006. “I had to tell you that I’m spending more time looking forward than moving back.”
A corporate lawyer who had never run for elected office when he beat Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in 2006, Patrick broke a streak of 16 years of Republican control of the Corner Office. The Republican run witnessed four chief executives, one who served only as acting governor, while Patrick is set to finish out eight years of Democratic rule on his own.
Sixteen years ago Monday, Gov. Bill Weld, who was midway into his second term, handed the governorship over to the late Lt. Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci as Weld pursued an ambassadorship to Mexico that was ultimately unsuccessful. Patrick yesterday passed Weld in continuous service as governor.
Attaining the office about a year before the nation and then the state fell into a major recession, Patrick raised taxes three times, imposed deep spending cuts while overseeing numerous government reform initiatives, oversaw implementation of the state’s groundbreaking 2006 health care law and became such a figure of national importance that he has had to beat back speculation of a bid for the presidency.
“I think people will see that he’s a guy who saw Massachusetts through the toughest time and in the course of that, brought us out strong,” Walsh said.
“The governor, working with the Legislature, deserves high marks for the handling of the state’s long and deep fiscal crisis,” said Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer. “It was a very difficult period for any governor, and Massachusetts performed much better than most of our comparable states.”
House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, who has headed up the Republican House contingent throughout Patrick’s term, noted that the milestone fell on a day when gas, tobacco and computer services taxes are about to rise.
“To celebrate that day, we are inflicting $500 million in tax increases on the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Jones said. “I think that pretty much sums up the seven years.”
Jones said Patrick’s early cultivation of a relationship with the minority party soon “died on the vine” and that Patrick’s recent battle with Democratic leaders for a larger tax increase, which culminated in Patrick vetoing a revenue package he found wanting only to have Democrats in the Legislature overrule him, have “accelerated his lame-duck status.”
Patrick was a Democratic activist, corporate attorney and former official in President Bill Clinton’s Justice Department when he hit the campaign trail in 2005, running against Attorney General Tom Reilly and businessman Chris Gabrieli in the primary.
After a campaign featuring far fewer promises than his first one, Patrick won re-election in 2010, defeating Republican Charlie Baker, and pledged to fill out the rest of his term and then enter the private sector.
Because Weld was sworn in Jan. 3, 1993, and left office June 29, 1998, and Patrick was sworn in Jan. 4, 2007, Wednesday, July 31, is the day that Patrick surpasses Weld in longevity behind the wheel of the state. Dukakis, who spent three terms, two of which were consecutive, as governor, is the longest-serving governor of the state. Next year, Patrick will be the fourth-longest-serving governor of Massachusetts in the history of the nation, following behind Levi Lincoln Jr., who helmed for nine years from 1825 to 1834 and then won election to Congress, the state Senate and finally the Worcester mayoralty in 1845.
Three governors served for seven or more years since the United States gained independence. They are Caleb Strong, who served a total of 11 years in the early 19th century, John Brooks, who fought at Concord and Bunker Hill in the revolution and served as governor for seven years, and George Briggs, who was governor for seven years about a decade before the Civil War.
Edward King - 1,463 days (Jan. 4, 1979 - Jan. 6, 1983) Michael Dukakis - 4,391 days (three terms: Jan. 2, 1975-Jan. 4, 1979, Jan. 6, 1983 - Jan. 3, 1991 William Weld - 2,400 days (Jan. 3, 1991 - July 29, 1997) Argeo Paul Cellucci - 1,350 days (July 29, 1997 - April 10, 2001) Jane Swift 632 days - (Acting Governor, April 10, 2001 - Jan. 2, 2003) Mitt Romney - 1,463 days (Jan. 2, 2003 - Jan. 4, 2007) Deval Patrick - 2,4001 days (Jan. 4, 2007 - present)