Patrick gets in 2020 race, insists it's not too late

Former Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick is confident he can become a major factor in the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.

CONCORD — Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick admitted Thursday that his late entry into the Democratic presidential field is a daunting challenge, but because most voters are still undecided, there’s time to catch fire and emerge from a very crowded field.

“We have been watching the race, thinking about it and frankly wondering if it was even possible. Some of the obstacles are still there,” Patrick said.

At the State House to file his candidacy papers on Thursday, the two-term governor said as a proud black man he’s dealt with “skepticism” his entire life and remains confident he can again surpass expectations.

“I will say from the perspective of the voters, it is early,” said Patrick, 63, moments after making his run official in New Hampshire. “Voters across the country are in some cases just tuning in. I am asking them to give me a chance.”

Patrick said he initially decided last December that he would not get into this race because weeks earlier his wife, Diane, had been diagnosed with uterine cancer.

But with Diane at his side Thursday, Patrick said he was delighted to share that she is now cancer-free.

Given the high-profile competition he faces, the former governor painted himself as a humble underdog.

“It is a big and talented field. It is hard to break through without being a celebrity or sensational, and I am neither,” he said.

While Patrick cannot legally direct it, he said his campaign would need the help of a Super PAC to spend money in support of his candidacy, given the limited amount of time left before the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

A personal friend of former President Barack Obama, Patrick said Obama told him Wednesday he would not discourage him from running.

“He advised me to be clear-headed about the challenges that are ahead,” Patrick said. “Getting in at this stage isn’t a Hail Mary (pass in football); it’s more like a Hail Mary from two stadiums over — and trust me that’s the last sports metaphor I will use today.”

Other Obama administration confidantes and friends said they were worried for Patrick given the rough-and-tumble character of politics today. “They said as a citizen I am thrilled; as your friend I wish you wouldn’t,” he said. “I appreciate the honesty.”

When he ruled out running last December he referred to the “cruelty of the process.” “It’s gotten no less cruel since then,” he said Thursday.

On the issues

After filing candidacy papers at the State House, Patrick ordered lunch and greeted voters at the Bridge Cafe on Elm Street in Manchester.

Patrick called President Trump divisive and “frankly, hateful.”

“It seems like he gets up every morning thinking about how to divide us and I just don’t see how that appeals to the best and highest aspirations,” Patrick said.

The impeachment inquiry is “entirely appropriate and timely” Patrick said adding Presidents are responsible for abiding by the law.

On issues, Patrick said he did not support a Medicare-for-all or single-payer solution for health care, but instead favors a robust public option for citizens who want government coverage.

Patrick said he would support raising taxes on the wealthy and during this campaign said he would spell out his design for a more “simplistic, but fairer” tax system.

What is blocking fundamental reforms on many issues, Patrick said, is the corrosive influence of big money in politics and he said in the coming weeks he would detail a “democracy agenda” to empower working families to leverage their political power.

Most political observers say Patrick, a financially-successful investment adviser, will try to topple former Vice President Joe Biden as the leading moderate Democrat in the field.

Patrick praised both Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., saying he spoke with Warren on Wednesday night and said it was a “difficult talk” given his respect for her.

Union Leader reporter Jonathan Phelps contributed to this report.

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