John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
WORCESTER -- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick received the overwhelming endorsement of the Democratic activists gathered today for the party's nominating convention, declaring that the state is "on the mend and on the move" and telling delegates he wanted to continue the agenda of change he has pursued in his first term.
"We worked hard four years ago to change the guard. Now it's up to us to guard the change," Patrick, who was nominated along with his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, told the enthusiastic crowd of thousands gathered in the DCU Center arena. "This is our campaign, this is our cause. Let's go finish what we started."
Patrick touted the state's implementation of health care reform, continued support for school funding, and a "whole host of long-awaited and long-talked-about reforms," including pension, ethics, and transportation overhaul bills. He said there had been setbacks due to the stumbling economy, but he emphasized recent signs of recovery.
Still, he said, he wasn't satisfied. He said he wanted further improvements in the employment picture, better schools, more affordable health care, a reduction in property taxes, and an end to youth violence.
A contented crowd that had been clapping politely through most of his speech exploded in cheers when Patrick said with passion: "I won't be satisfied until we start treating others the way Scripture teaches us to treat them -- as we ourselves would want to be treated -- even if they are new to this land."
While laying out his priorities, Patrick also found time to criticize his opponents, Republican Charles Baker and independent Tim Cahill.
"Cahill and Baker want to take us back to the past, to administrations that talk about reform and do nothing to make real change. Tim Murray and I will tell you the truth, then do what's right," he said.
Paola Ferrer, a first-time delegate from Allston-Brighton, howled and cheered in appreciation as the governor urged the activists to step up and make a change.
"It resonated with me. I'm really impressed," she said. "I'm always inspired by him anyway."
"Whatever doubts I might have had a few months ago were all allayed when I started seeing his teams in the streets," said Ferrer. "It's the power of his team, I think. He's really mobilized people that believe in what he's started and believe that in the next four years, he can push the envelope to achieve those goals."
"I thought he was remarkable," said Carole White, a delegate from West Roxbury. "His whole outlook in life is very refreshing. He's a marvelous speaker, but I think he follows through with what he says."
Patrick and Murray had no opponents. In other contests, Steven Grossman won the convention's endorsement for state treasurer, but Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy received enough delegate votes to vie against him in the September primary. None of the state auditor candidates -- Suzanne Bump, Guy Glodis, and Michael Lake -- garnered enough votes to be endorsed. All will appear on the primary ballot.
Murray, during his speech, praised the administration's record, while taking his own shots at Baker.
"When we were elected, we never expected to be governing in the worst economic crisis America has seen since the Great Depression. But thatís what we faced, and we didnít pass the buck," he said. "Weíve kept teachers in the classrooms, police on the beat, firefighters on the job, and in doing so weíve held the fabric of our communities together."
He criticized Baker for his work as a top fiscal aide for Republican governors while the cost of the Big Dig project rose, as well as his work as a health insurance executive, saying Baker had refused to take responsibility for the roles he had played.
"Sorry Charlie, Iíve got some news for you. The people of Massachusetts have had enough of your excuses," he said. "They donít want a governor who points fingers or passes the buck."
Speakers warming up the crowd in the morning included US Representative James McGovern, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.
"We Democrats don't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and tossing rhetorical bombs. We devise real solutions to difficult problems," DeLeo told the crowd.
After making several political missteps during a period when the economy appeared to be crumbling, Patrickís poll numbers had collapsed last year to the point that some analysts were convinced he could not get reelected. Voter discontent seemed to be underlined when Republican Scott Brown scored an upset victory in a January special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Senator Kennedy.
But several recent polls have shown Patrick with a double-digit lead over Baker, with Cahill, the state treasurer who left the party last year, falling deep into third place after a withering blitz of attack ads launched by the Republican Governors Association. Patrickís lead in the surveys reflects several good months for the governor, during which the economy has been rebounding and he was able to play high-profile leadership roles in the spring floods and the drinking water crisis.
Still, the governorís race has five long months left, and Patrickís standing could shift again by the November election.
Inge Buerger, a delegate from Groveland, expressed confidence in Patrick's chances for reelection and said she thinks voters will be turned off the more they hear from Baker, who served in the Weld administration. "I don't think we want to go backward," she said.
A retired public school teacher, she said she does not agree with everything Patrick does, but that, "under the circumstances, I think he's done the best he could have done. It's a tough time."
Buerger, who is serving as a delegate for the third time, said the energy was similar to previous conventions, though "maybe not quite as enthusiastic as 2006." She is untroubled by the notion of Republicans seizing momentum this year, saying she is not impressed by the GOP candidates she has seen.
Brown's surprising victory in the Senate election in January served Democrats well, in reminding them not to take anything for granted, she said.
"We were caught off guard," she said. "We don't want to be caught off guard again, ever."
"In some ways, I think the Scott Brown victory was a positive thing because it was an early wakeup call," she added. "I think in some ways he did us a favor."
The convention also included a tribute to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy that included speeches by Patrick, US Senator John Kerry, and Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, remembering Kennedy's work and calling on the gathering of activists to continue it.
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