THE STATE HOUSE — Gov. Deval Patrick acknowledged Thursday that he has been approached by aides to President Obama about a job in Washington. But the governor repeated that he’s committed to completing his term in office in Massachusetts.
“That’s the plan,” Patrick said during an interview in his State House office. “More than the plans, it’s my ambition and my commitment. We haven’t had governors in Massachusetts who have finished their terms in a long time.”
The governor’s predecessor, Mitt Romney, did finish his term. But the two governors elected before Romney did not. William Weld resigned expecting to become ambassador to Mexico, until his ambitions were thwarted in the U.S. Senate. Paul Cellucci resigned when he was named ambassador to Canada.
Patrick said he’s made it clear to the president’s advisers that he is not interested in a post in the administration.
“I’ve had that conversation with his team,” Patrick said. “At some level, I suppose, it’s nice to be asked and thought about, and I’m going to be as helpful as anybody can possibly be from the position of governor of Massachusetts, but I like this job. We’re making great progress. I ran for this job because I wanted it, and not to have it as a stepping stone to something else.”
Patrick fed speculation about whether he might take a post in the administration earlier this month when he had dinner with the Obamas at the White House.
“Oh, that was purely social and fun,” he said about the dinner. “There were just 12 or 14 of us there. It was upstairs in the residence, close friends of theirs, and of each other in a number of cases, and we just talked about the experience of the campaign and some of the funny stories that you would accumulate on an adventure like that, and [it was] a very joyful time.”
Patrick spent many weekends over the past year campaigning for the president.
But over the next two years, he said he wants to focus on Massachusetts. He proposes to close disparities between students in public schools.
He said within weeks, he will propose a plan to finance the MBTA and other transportation infrastructure, but he wouldn’t reveal any details. He is sticking by his proposal to expand commuter rail to the South Coast.
And for now, the governor said he’s satisfied with the way his administration has addressed two major problems in recent months: the nationwide distribution of toxic steroids from Framingham’s New England Compounding Center and the apparent falsification of thousands of reports in criminal cases at a state drug lab.
“The biggest change at the drug lab has happened, and that was the transfer of the responsibilities of the so-called Hinton Lab, which was the state drug lab, over to the Mass. State Police,” Patrick said. “I think that the disciplining of the people whose oversight was clearly lacking was important.”
Patrick cited the work of the independent office he set up to investigate how many cases were compromised by the falsified drug reports.
“It’s a file-by-file review at this point, and a potential of up to 34,000 cases to ensure that justice is done,” he said. “[It’s] precisely what we should be doing.”
As for the NECC, Patrick said he’s satisfied with the immediate steps he’s taken.
“Suspending the licenses of the pharmacists who were involved, recalling the products that NECC and its sister companies issued, reminding the compounding pharmacies of their obligations under state and federal law, and national standards in doing the spot inspections, if you will,” Patrick listed.
Patrick said one question remains: Who should sit on the state pharmacy board?
“And so, one could have the dramatic act of asking all the members of the Board of Pharmacy to resign today, but it still begs the question of whether to have a board of pharmacy, whether the requirement is that it be dominated by pharmacists,” he said. “So I’m asking those kinds of questions.”
Patrick said he’ll wait for recommendations of the commission he’s set up. He expects those before the end of the year.