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Patrick plans to expand travels

Would promote trade, publicize his memoir; May raise questions on his aspirations

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By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / January 5, 2011

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Governor Deval Patrick has a new goal as he starts his second term tomorrow: get out of the state more often.

Full of confidence, and a bit of bluster, since his reelection in November, the governor said yesterday that he is planning more travel, both domestically and overseas, to promote the state on trade missions, to research other states’ policies, to publicize his upcoming memoir, and possibly to campaign for President Obama.

“My hope is that we’ll be doing numbers of trips that have a lot of different agenda pieces, so we’ll make the most of the time,’’ Patrick said. “But you should expect me to travel more.’’

Patrick’s trips may renew speculation about whether he harbors aspirations for higher office or a political appointment out of state, and it may draw criticism that he is junketeering, especially if he combines book promotion with state business.

As for his most immediate concern, tomorrow’s inauguration, Patrick said his address would touch more on broad themes than specific policy proposals: creating jobs; closing the student achievement gap; trimming health costs with a new payment system; and reducing youth violence.

Patrick has spoken extensively about all four issues. But youth violence had not previously been listed as a priority on par with the other three. Last year was particularly violent, especially in Boston, where homicides were up 50 percent compared with 2009. Three 14-year-olds and a 2-year-old were among the 72 people killed in the city.

There is a lack of a comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem, Patrick said in a 20-minute interview with the Globe, part of a round of media appearances in advance of his swearing-in.

“I am more and more persuaded that government can’t do this alone,’’ he said. “And, as I’ve sat down with a group of mothers who have lost children to violence, they have really been making this point as well, that they want to work with us and law enforcement, community groups, and victim advocates, and others to develop a comprehensive strategy.’’

The governor also rebuffed requests yesterday to release the list of corporate and individual donors to his inaugural festivities, which are expected to cost $500,000. He said it would be done eventually but it was not a concern for him whether the information was released before the inauguration. He said it was up to David O’Brien, executive director of his inaugural committee, who has declined to release the list in advance of the event.

“I don’t think it matters,’’ Patrick said. “I’m going to leave that to David. I don’t have to manage everything.’’

Hours later, a spokesman for the inaugural committee said the list would be released this afternoon.

Patrick said his impulse to travel more frequently for economic development was reinforced by a meeting last month with the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a group of the state’s leading chief executive officers, led by his former housing and economic development secretary, Dan O’Connell.

“We have some very powerful things to sell about Massachusetts, so we better be out there doing it,’’ Patrick said. “I know my counterparts are doing it.’’ A Democrat, Patrick said some of his travel may also involve selling President Obama’s national message, if he is asked to do so by the president. As a rare Democratic governor to win reelection in November, Patrick has repeatedly celebrated the power of his network of activists, saying yesterday that his defeat of Republican Charles D. Baker showed that a grass-roots approach would “beat a well-financed lie every time.’’

Patrick said that Obama asked him during a visit to the White House in November to serve on an informal group of political advisers discussing policy for the next two years of Obama’s term. The White House has not yet followed up, he said.

Patrick’s memoir is scheduled to be published in April, and the governor said he plans to travel to promote that, as well. But the schedule has not yet been set. He said the travel would not interfere with his ability to govern the state.

“If I can’t, I won’t do it,’’ he said. “I think we can.’’

By leaving the state frequently, Patrick would probably give a political boost to his lieutenant governor, Timothy P. Murray, the first in command in the governor’s absence. Patrick has said he will not seek a third term, leaving Murray as a probable top contender in 2014.

Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, faced criticism when he frequently left the state to raise his national profile as he was gearing up for a presidential run in 2008. Travel, lodging, and meals for state troopers accompanying Romney cost taxpayers more than $100,000 over an 11-month period during that time.

A Patrick spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, said the length, scope, and cost of Patrick’s book tour have not yet been worked out with the publisher, but “it’s our intention that state funds are not used’’ for any related costs, including security.

Republicans said they agree it is important for a governor to lure businesses from out of state, but said they would be watching to see whether the cost of Patrick’s travels becomes exorbitant.

“It’s always important to promote the state,’’ said Bruce E. Tarr, the incoming Republican leader in the state Senate. “But I think it’s more important to reform state government, so there’s a more competitive climate for businesses. . . . I certainly hope that the governor will find time in that rigorous travel schedule to focus on those things.’’

Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr., the Republican leader in the House, said he has defended Patrick’s travel when it has been targeted — to Washington D.C., for example, to seek federal funding.

Further scrutiny will depend, he said, on the frequency of travel and the justification for the trips.

It would raise concerns, Jones said, if it began to seem as if Patrick were just looking to “get some more places stamped on my passport.’’

Frank Phillips of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.