Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne

Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne
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In a mild voice, former governor of Massachusetts and son of Chicago, Deval PatrickDeval PatrickButtigieg to attend MLK Day event in South Carolina after facing criticism Deval Patrick knocks lack of diversity in Democratic debate Democratic Party boss pushes back on criticism: Debate rules 'very transparent,' 'very inclusive' MORE entered the race for president of the United States of America. Gov. Patrick’s announcement, which had been hinted at earlier this week, came in the form of a video released to his social media followers early Thursday morning. Though Patrick is no stranger to the Democratic Party, his last-minute entry has caused many to ask this fundamental question: Is there room for one more?

As it currently stands, there are 18 candidates running in the crowded Democratic presidential field. While some — like Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardButtigieg to attend MLK Day event in South Carolina after facing criticism Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Gabbard defeats man in push-up contest at New Hampshire town hall MORE of Hawaii, Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockBrent Budowsky: Bloomberg should give billion to Democrats Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Kamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive MORE of Montana, Billionaire Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerBiden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina Buttigieg to attend MLK Day event in South Carolina after facing criticism Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire MORE, Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyElizabeth Warren moves 'bigly' to out-trump Trump DNC goof: Bloomberg should be on debate stage Bloomberg decides to skip Nevada caucuses MORE of Maryland, to name a few — are most definitely long shots for the nomination, there seems to be a clear set of front runners galvanizing the party’s faithful. These front runners have crisscrossed the country, opened dozens of campaign offices, participated in numerous town-halls, hosted hundreds of fundraisers, and taken thousands of selfies with supporters over the last 12 months. Also, nearly all of the 18 remaining candidates have participated in at least one televised debate. Given all of that, this field still seems to have a crack or two.

Several nights ago, I sat down for dinner with a group of young African-American progressive voters. When asked about the 2020 field of Democratic candidates and who they liked, they all responded with the same sigh. Most had it down two or three candidates, but all were undecided just two months away from the first contest. One diner expressed a great deal of interest in the idea of a Patrick campaign.

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Here is the truth: While short, there’s a little bit of runway for Patrick. Given that he’s a former governor of Massachusetts and Boston shares media markets with the state of New Hampshire, he has some name recognition in the first primary state. With that said, Patrick will have a problem contending with current frontrunners, like Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE and Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina Sanders says gender 'still an obstacle' for female politicians Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE, who have occupied the hearts and minds of those wishing to return sanity, reasonability and practicality to our nation’s political discourse.

Similar to Biden, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker ahead of Trump impeachment trial: 'History has its eyes on us' Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial DNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate MORE of New Jersey and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE of Massachusetts, Patrick’s humble beginnings and meteoric rise are what make America so great. Growing up on Chicago’s poverty-stricken Southside in a two-room tenement with his father and grandmother, Patrick worked his way to Harvard University for his undergraduate studies and law school. Instead of taking the big entry-level law firm job, as most law grads do, the former justice department official decided to become a civil rights attorney at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.

There are some who will attack Patrick for later becoming a corporate lawyer and for taking a job at Bain Capital — a firm founded by Utah Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe TRUST Act is a plot to gut Social Security behind closed doors Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Bring on the brokered convention MORE. Those attacks are warranted, and Patrick’s campaign should be prepared to respond.

Beyond his story, Patrick has a pretty decent record on issues that matter for progressive voters. While he was governor, Massachusetts led the nation in reducing carbon emissions. In 2008, Patrick signed a bill into law that made the Bay State a leader in the production and use of biofuels. Beyond that, he was one of the first governors in the country to take real steps to curb gun violence by closing the gun show loophole and placing more stringent requirements for gun sales. Before leaving office, Patrick pushed forward a sweeping $13-billon infrastructure package that put a lot of folks back to work, rebuilding the Old Colony State and improving worn-out bridges, roads, and critical commuter rail lines.

In 2014, Patrick championed legislation that required health insurers to extend coverage to people struggling with drug addiction, codifying it as a mental health problem, not a criminal justice one. As state after state restricted women’s access to care, Patrick signed a bill into law allowing law enforcement to remove anti-choice protesters away from women’s healthcare center entrances.

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On the heels of an 11-day teachers’ strike in Chicago and a nationwide #RedForED pro-public education movement, Patrick will most definitely have to clean up or at least explain his record on public education. While his commitment to closing the achievement gap at the K-12 and secondary education levels seems very clear, his methodology will produce some ire from Democratic base voters. As a one-time proponent for privatization schemes, like charter schools and vouchers, the former general counsel for Coca-Cola faces an uphill battle in explaining his record to educators, parents, and community members committed to ensuring high-quality neighborhood public schools.

Whether or not Patrick can launch himself into the Democratic top tier remains to be seen. Here’s what is known: He hasn’t met the qualifications for next week’s Democratic debate, and he likely won’t meet the requirements for the December debate. However, he has more than just ideas. He has experience — specifically executive experience — and that matters in an era of bad governance. Patrick’s hope lies in his campaign’s ability to speak to practical progressives fed up with candidates too far to the left and over those fighting for a space in the moderate middle.

Richard A. Fowler is a Fox News Contributor and host of radio’s Fowler Show. On Fox, Fowler brings a progressive voice to conservative broadcast on America’s most-watched cable television network. He is also a Senior Fellow at the New Leaders Council. Follow him on Twitter @RichardAFowler.