Former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Deval Patrick says he will be competing in the Iowa caucuses. His late entrance to the race puts him at a distinct disadvantage in the state, where many of his competitors have been building grassroots organizations for months, and some of them for years.
Patrick is a Harvard-educated lawyer, private equity executive, one of the first and only black men ever elected governor in the U.S. and as of last week, the latest person to ask Iowans to caucus for them.
With his political roots in New England as two-term governor of Massachusetts, Patrick is expected to make a go of the first-in-the-nation primary in neighboring New Hampshire.
But on a visit to Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village neighborhood Monday, the Chicago native said he’s planning on running in Iowa, too.
“I know the other campaigns have been here a long time and they’ve raised a lot more money and made a lot more friends. I have to respect the calendar and be realistic about that,” Patrick said. “But I would not want anyone in Iowa to think I was not respecting Iowans.”
For his first official campaign event in Iowa, Patrick held a meet and greet with state Sen. Rob Hogg at Sykora Bakery to discuss climate policy and learn how the neighborhood has recovered from the historic flood in 2008. About 20 potential caucusgoers packed in to the bakery with as many reporters and staffers to hear from the former governor, before filing out into the chill for a walking tour of the block.
John Andersen of Mount Vernon made the trek for the event. The retired educator and former Chickasaw County supervisor says he knew “virtually nothing” about Patrick, but came because he has an interest in climate policy.
While he’s leaning towards Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Bernie Sanders, he says he was impressed by the attention Patrick paid to the issue and his lines of questioning for the state senator.
But Andersen says he “would have to see more” of Patrick to put in the time to really consider him as a candidate.
“The clock is ticking,” Andersen said. “I would think it would be hard to catch up.”
Patrick for his part says his campaign in Iowa will likely be “a virtual campaign in some respects” but that he’s building out an Iowa team and is looking at some office space in the state.
“We’re gonna, I hope very soon, be announcing our Iowa leadership,” Patrick said. “We’ve had a proposal already about a place for an Iowa headquarters, and we’re going to think about that. A field office, we’re going to think about that.”
His bid is reportedly welcomed and encouraged by Democratic donors concerned about the path forward for former Vice President Joe Biden and the leftward lean of frontrunners Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But speaking with reporters Monday, he denied that his late bid is an indictment of the already large field of Democrats.
“No it’s not meant to be,” Patrick said. “It’s something I wanted to do a year ago. I can do it now.”
Patrick says he was ready to announce his bid a year ago but decided not to get in the race because his wife Diane was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Now he says she is cancer-free. After re-assessing the field and with campaign deadlines looming, he made the decision.
“I would not do it if I didn’t think there was still a path," he said. "I don’t think the electorate is decided. And I say that with due respect to the other candidates and the people who have been supporting them.”
After the event, Hogg told reporters he is “not critical” of candidates coming to the race late, and said Patrick is putting in place a “great team” to run his campaign. But, Hogg says the former Massachusetts governor faces steep competition in an already crowded race.
“Look, here’s the problem: candidates who have been running for two years are gonna have trouble figuring out how to get viable in a significant number of precincts. He’s here getting in with two and a half months to go,” Hogg said. “Every candidate is going to have to be picking and choosing where they battle and where they get viable and he’s going to have to do it in a hurry.”