In his first bid for elected office, Deval Patrick, a lawyer
and former executive, could be the first African American governor
dominated the Democratic primary in September, despite being a
political unknown when he entered the gubernatorial race in January
2005. In a hard-fought race, he won 50 percent of the vote, solidly
defeating his opponents Tom Reilly and Chris Gabrieli.
Patrick grew up on welfare in the slums of Chicago's South Side.
He excelled in school and moved to Massachusetts for high school
after receiving a scholarship to Milton Academy, an elite private
school. He went on to attend Harvard College and after graduating
spent a year in Darfur working on a United Nations youth training
project. He returned to Harvard for law school.
Patrick worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for three years
and became a partner at the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow.
His first venture into public life came in 1994, when President
Clinton appointed him assistant attorney general for civil rights.
He stayed in that post with the U.S. Justice Department for about
three years, during which he oversaw many high-profile cases including
investigations into arsons at churches in the South and allegations
of racism against the Los Angeles police.
"I view the civil rights laws as among the most important
laws on the books, and I believe they exist to help solve real
problems in real people's lives," Patrick said during his
confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Patrick commuted to see his family at his home in Massachusetts
while working in Washington, then returned to private practice
in 1997. He became vice president and general counsel for Texaco,
and then general counsel for The Coca Cola Company. He left Coca
Cola last year but remains on several boards of directors.
Both Texaco and Coca-Cola settled large discrimination cases
around the time Patrick chose to work for them, which critics
say casts doubt on Patrick's commitment to civil rights. Patrick
said his decision to work for the companies was, in part, an attempt
to improve them from within.
"I think there are responsible ways for companies to behave,
and I want to be a force for that," Patrick told the Boston
Patrick is opposed to his Republican opponent Lt. Gov. Kerry
Healey's plan to roll back the state income tax. He has made increasing
local aid and business growth in the state priorities in his campaign.
Healey and Patrick are also at odds on the death penalty, which
Healey would reinstate for certain circumstances. Patrick is opposed
to any use of the death penalty