Saturday, 2:15 PM
Governor skipped casino debate to pitch his autobiography in NYC
(John Bohn/Globe Staff)
Governor Deval Patrick spoke to reporters last week about his casino proposal.
By Frank Phillips and Matt Viser, Globe Staff
Governor Deval Patrick traveled to New York City last week to shop a proposal for an autobiography among publishing houses, departing the state to pursue the book contract just hours before the House voted down his high-profile casino legislation on Beacon Hill.
Disclosure of the trip's purpose cleared up a mystery that has lingered since last Thursday, when Patrick aides said he had left Boston on unspecified "personal business" and repeatedly and firmly declined to discuss any details.
Patrick's proposed book would recount his dramatic rise from the streets of Chicago's South Side to the governor's office. Such a tale would draw comparisons to the immensely successful books written by his friend and political ally Barack Obama, whose "Dreams of My Father," and "The Audacity of Hope" have been long-time bestsellers.
Patrick's absence last Thursday raised eyebrows at the State House, where union members and a number of the governor's legislative allies on the casino issue remained throughout the day to follow through in their support of the bill.
Within hours after Patrick left Boston, the House, led by Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, crushed the casino proposal, by a 108-46 vote. In the heated run-up to the debate and final vote, a number of Democratic legislators sided with Patrick and defied DiMasi's strong lobbying.
Patrick's aides released a statement tonight, confirming the reasons behind the trip after it was reported by WBZ-TV and immediately pursued by other news outlets including the Globe. The Globe received independent confirmation of the trip by two people in the publishing industry.
"Governor Patrick visited New York last week to discuss with interested publishers the possibility of publishing a book. The governor will release the details of any agreement when it is finalized," said his spokesman, Joe Landofi. He defended the governor's departure, saying that Patrick worked "tirelessly" in advance of the House vote to win passage.
Patrick's literary agent, Todd Shuster, could not be reached for comment, but the two people in the New York publishing world confirmed that Patrick was shopping a book proposal to multiple publishing firms. One senior editor at a publishing house who had seen the proposal said Shuster was with Patrick last week in New York hawking the book proposal.
Shuster is a founding partner of the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency, which has offices in New York and Boston. Shuster practiced publishing and entertainment law at the Boston law firms of Palmer & Dodge and Ropes & Gray, where Patrick's wife, Diane, is a partner.
Patrick's departure from the State House last week while one of the centerpieces of his economic agenda was on the line was a surprise to many on Beacon Hill. Patrick aides repeatedly rebuffed questions on Thursday and Friday about the governor's specific whereabouts or why he went to New York. They would only say that it was not political and had nothing to do with his role as governor and that he deserved some privacy. They scoffed at suggestions that it was a political misstep to depart Beacon Hill and not see his casino proposal through to the very end.
Last night, news that Patrick was not in the State House because he was looking to sign a book deal triggered strong criticism from Republican lawmakers. House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones of North Reading, said he was stunned that the New York trip was about a book proposal.
"I'm trying to pick my jaw off the ground. A book deal?" Jones said. "It could have been handled at a different time than when the Legislature is not dealing with one of his major initiatives."
Landolfi, Patrick's spokesman, dismissed the criticism.
"To suggest that the governor's absence from the State House in any way impacted the House vote on his casino legislation is baseless.The Governor worked tirelessly up to the day of the vote to persuade House members of the merits of the economic development potential of his casino initiative and to further encourage members to debate the legislation in full on the House floor" Landolfi said.
One Democratic supporter said Patrick was perfectly within his rights to leave the State House at such a critical time for his casino plans, because it was facing certain defeat and there was nothing more he could do.
"There was nothing he could do to stop" the defeat, said Senator Michael Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat and casino backer. "He had done all the legwork that he could... What are you going to do, just sit there and take it on the chin? If he's going to get blown away, he might as well hide."
Democratic media consultant Dan Payne suggested Patrick may have moved too quickly in his public career to seek a book contract. He said that while the governor has an interesting life story, he has been in office a short time.
"But the timing was not great because of the vote and because he's only been a governor for a little over a year," he said. "He's raised his profile and made political people aware of who he is. So it's not unusual he would be thinking -- or maybe an ambitious agent would be thinking -- this is a good time to try a book."
Helen Rees, a top Boston literary agent whose past clients have included John Kerry, said it is hard to say what kind of interest there might be in a Patrick book without knowing specifically what the governor wants to write about.
"But offhand," she said, "I would say there's a lot of material there that would warrant great interest. I can't imagine that wouldn't be the case. It's an American story, it's a success story and he is a charismatic guy, he has overcome things. So I can't imagine that there wouldn't be interest in that."
Lisa Wangsness of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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