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GLOBE EDITORIAL

Patrick in the primary

IN CHOOSING A governor to run the state, voters look for executive experience, wise issue positions, and the intangible quality of leadership. It is a rare thing when a candidate has all three. We believe Massachusetts Democrats and independent voters have such a person in Deval Patrick. The Globe strongly endorses his candidacy in the gubernatorial primary Sept. 19.

Patrick, 50, has not held elective office, but he has served in significant appointed office, as chief of the civil rights division in the US Justice Department under President Clinton. There, he managed an office of several hundred lawyers fighting complex issues across diverse constituencies from bankers to police officers to community organizers. After that he was a lawyer for Coca-Cola and Texaco and a member of several corporate boards. He has experience in the plushest office suites and the meanest urban streets. He has the range, the maturity, and the skill to lead Massachusetts through precarious times.

Often, the character of a political campaign provides a lens into how a candidate would govern. One may call on longtime political alliances. One may spend a lot of money on television ads. Patrick has chosen to build a broad citizen organization, fueled by his inspiring presence, perhaps, but also benefiting from the advice and participation of thousands who are joining the political process in earnest for the first time. The organization may help propel him to victory in the election. More important, because of the base it provides to speak directly to the voters and mobilize support for change, it can help him govern.

Patrick's policy views, rather nebulous at the beginning of the campaign, have come into sharper focus. His economic prescription is simple but powerful: Hold the line on income taxes; focus on support for beleaguered communities to ease property taxes; and expand the economy by making Massachusetts a more inviting place for all kinds of businesses. Despite the easy stereotype, he is no big-spending, antibusiness liberal. His ideas for economic development are as serious and sensible as any candidate's, Republican or Democrat.

Patrick sees the comprehensive picture. He showed vision and independence in being first to support the Cape Wind project, but he also understands global markets, and the opportunity in steering the state's economy toward alternative energy technologies. ``If we get that right, the whole world is our customer," he says.

He has a measured, focused approach to implementing the state's complicated new healthcare law, already fraying at the seams. Just holding together the fragile coalition that passed the universal access law and steadily making it work is challenge enough for now. ``It's important for us to get past this politics that says we have to agree on everything before we can work on anything," he says. Similarly, he wants to fix the relationship between the state and the cities and towns, which he correctly says is in ``total breakdown."

Patrick's experience with brokering such collaboration among competing interests is a major asset of his candidacy. A good example was on display in Thursday night's debate. When both his opponents were sniping at each other over whether Harvard or the UMass system should benefit from publicly funded stem cell research, Patrick spoke eloquently about the power of partnerships.

Patrick says he wants to effect a change in the culture on Beacon Hill; his successes doing that in the corporate sector -- where both Coke and Texaco were facing difficult mandates to diversify from top to bottom -- help us believe it is more than just rhetoric. Judging from the ``brain trust" of policy advisers he already has attracted to the campaign, we are confident he will build an administration full of the talent and energy that have been shut out of government -- both in the executive and the Legislature -- for too long.

We hope Patrick will become a more vigorous advocate for education reform and the need to hold students and teachers to higher standards. Crucial to the state's ability to compete is that 13 years of momentum not be slowed by institutional resistance or inertia. But we also recognize that Patrick is a man whose life was saved by the opportunities of a rigorous education that took him from a broken home in Chicago to Milton Academy and Harvard and beyond. The transforming power of education is not theoretical to him.

Patrick doesn't often explicitly address his race in the campaign. But his positive reception -- he won the Democratic Party's endorsement at its convention in June -- has been a good sign that this state can move beyond its reputation as old, cold, and closed. At a crowded town forum in Framingham last month, Patrick addressed the perception that Massachusetts is a difficult place to break into, whether for business or socially. ``It will be a signal of welcome when I take the oath," he said. Patrick's very presence in this campaign has been positive and inviting, with its theme of the common stake each citizen has in the success of the other. Wouldn't more of that be a refreshing ``culture change" for Massachusetts?

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