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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was cheered by his staff Wednesday as he returned to his Statehouse office after winning re-election, and he quickly pledged to use the groundwork and experience from his first four years to successfully complete what he says is his final term.
He also tried to ward off lame-duck status with a stern warning: "Don't underestimate me."
The Democrat told reporters he will focus on creating jobs, containing health care costs and boosting educational opportunities for the underprivileged after his January inaugural.
"I'm proud to have, and eager that we have, the opportunity now to finish the work that we started," a bleary-eyed Patrick said in the morning.
Yet by afternoon, at another news conference following a Cabinet meeting, Patrick was more stern.
"Don't make the mistake of thinking that because I am not running for a third term I'm not going to be pressing my agenda. Don't make that mistake. I have had the experience before in this building and in Massachusetts politics of people underestimating me and underestimating my desire."
Unlike 2007, when he entered that office a political neophyte, the 53-year-old Patrick said his experience will hasten his progress until he leaves office in 2015.
"The people I deal with in this job, whether they're in the Legislature or the business community, community groups or what have you, we know each other now. They know I say what I mean, I do what I say and I can be flexible or stubborn depending on the issue," the governor said.
He added: "It's good for them to know that about me, and it's good for me to know the people I'm dealing with - who delivers, and who doesn't."
Staffers applauded, snapped pictures and shouted congratulations to Patrick when he stepped off an elevator and into the lobby of his office, coffee cup in one hand, a briefing binder under his other arm.
On Tuesday, he beat Republican challenger Charles Baker, independent Timothy Cahill and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein despite a pro-GOP tide that spread across the nation. The win made Patrick the state's first two-term Democratic governor since Michael S. Dukakis was re-elected in 1986.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Patrick had 49 percent to Baker's 42 percent. Cahill claimed 8 percent of the vote, while Stein garnered just over 1 percent.
Massachusetts voters also defeated a ballot question proposing to cut the state's sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3 percent, but they approved another repealing last year's expansion of the tax to alcohol sales. That money helped fund about $110 million in alcohol treatment programs.
"That is an unfortunate outcome, but that is the outcome," a clearly irritated Patrick said. "Now we're going to have to figure out some other way, but believe me, we're not at a place where there's some room full of cash."
Yet earlier in the session, the governor appeared unfazed by a projected $2 billion deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011. Baker had particularly accused him of ignoring that problem.
Patrick noted tax collections in September and October exceeded projections, and he said that growth - coupled with up to $700 million remaining in the state's rainy day fund - would help the state cope with any shortfall.
"We still have some tough decisions to make on the coming budget, I'm sure about that, but I don't think they're going to be as tough as were painted," he said.
Patrick said he had given no thought to his inaugural, after having staged an unusual outdoor ceremony in 2007. But he acknowledged he had been thinking about a staff shake-up, and promised announcements soon. He also has to make an appointment to replace Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who delayed her planned retirement in October until after the election.
Patrick said he hoped to use Baker's suggestion to create one-stop centers for human service programs, and to replicate Cahill's success revamping the Massachusetts school building program.
He also said he's reluctantly learned he needs to highlight his accomplishments, labeling them a platform for his next achievement.
"I think more time on victory laps, more time making sure the public understands how these dots connect to each other, is something you will see me do more of in this coming term," he said.
This program aired on November 4, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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