After a furious seven-week campaign, Deval Patrick and Kerry Healey sat back Tuesday and waited to learn who would be the winner of a general election race destined to result in the state's first black, female or independent governor. Patrick and his wife, Diane, walked to their polling place to vote in their hometown of Milton, while Healey and her husband, Sean, cast their ballots at an elementary school near their house in Beverly.
Patrick later greeted a noontime crowd at Downtown Crossing. Healey, seeking to extend the Republican Party's 16-run in the Corner Office, shook hands in West Roxbury before taking her staff out for a thank-you lunch.
Polls showed Patrick, the Democratic nominee, with a more than 20-point lead entering the voting, and communities across the state reported strong turnout on an overcast but rain-free day.
A victory would not only make Patrick the first black governor of Massachusetts, but only the second in the country since Reconstruction. A win for Healey, the state's sitting lieutenant governor, would make her the first elected female governor in the state's 218-year history.
The other two candidates in the race — independent Christy Mihos and Grace Ross of the Green-Rainbow Party — polled in the single digits throughout the campaign and were not expected to factor in the race's outcome.
"I believe in a grassroots strategy to campaign. I believe in a grassroots strategy to govern," Patrick told reporters after men and women — young and old, black and white — eagerly approached him and shook his hand outside a Borders bookstore.
"I think that if we win, our biggest challenge is how we transfer that energy and that excitement and willingness of people to connect and check back in into day-to-day governing and into a revived civic life," he said.
Healey largely stayed out of sight after visiting the Holy Name Church in West Roxbury, repairing to her campaign headquarters to place thank-you calls to her volunteers. She expressed one regret when asked how she might have improved her campaign.
"I would have started correcting some of those misperceptions about the record of Massachusetts and the reality of Massachusetts," she said. "I think that when people hear again and again that there's been jobs lost here in Massachusetts, they begin to believe it, even though the truth is we've added jobs over the course of the last year."
As the balloting got under way, Michael Baldwin, 54, a postal worker from Weymouth, said he voted for Patrick because he thought he would balance the needs of all residents when making decisions.
"He's a businessman, so he's not going to be tarred as anti-business," Baldwin said. "He's compassionate enough for the people who don't have anything, and he'll spread the responsibility across the board."
In Northampton, Richard Burque, 54, a computer programmer, said he voted for Patrick in part because he thought he had the best plan to help the economy, but also because he was turned off by negative campaign ads aired by Healey.
"It made me think if all she had to say is how bad the other guy is, then what's so great about her?" he said.
But Peter Perry, 48, of Whitman said Healey's ads weren't really negative — they were fair and pointed to Patrick's record, but the media just construed them as negative. The self-employed excavation contractor said he voted for Healey because she stood for small government and less taxes.
"I'm really scared if Deval Patrick gets in he'll be what everyone says he'll be — Du-Patrick, Dukakis-Patrick. Tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend," Perry said.
Joan DeMole, 69, a homemaker from Weymouth, said the tough ads were fair, but did not affect her vote for Healey. She said Healey had a more specific plan for fixing the state's economy and valuable experience working in the governor's office.
"She's been there, done it," DeMole said.
Patrick, 50, made his first run for political office after a career working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, two law firms, the Justice Department under President Clinton, as well as two stints in the corporate world as counsel to both Texaco Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co.
The Democrat waged an unorthodox campaign, eschewing large-money supporters in favor of meeting with community leaders and establishing a broad-based grass roots organization.
Healey, 46, was a two-time loser for state representative in Beverly before Mitt Romney, then a Republican candidate for governor, tapped her to be his running mate in 2002. Romney decided last year against seeking a second term as governor and has been laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2008.
Healey focused on Patrick during her campaign and accused him of being soft on crime, supportive of tax increases and unwilling to stand up to his fellow Democrats if they extended their grasp over the Legislature to the Gov.'s Office for the first time since Michael S. Dukakis left the Statehouse in 1991.
A final WHDH-TV/Suffolk University poll released Monday showed Patrick leading Healey 53 percent to 31 percent among 400 likely voters. Mihos was third at 6 percent and Ross trailed the pack at 2 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
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This program aired on November 7, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.