BOSTON — The police protest outside Gov. Deval Patrick’s first re-election stop during the weekend shows the risks and opportunities of running on a record.

Nearly four years after asking voters to take a chance on him amid uplifting talk of “hope” and “change,” the former corporate attorney now has concrete governmental accomplishments and failures making the 2010 election a referendum on him as much as any of his challengers.

The Lowell police complained about Patrick’s decision to use civilian flaggers – not uniformed officers – to direct traffic at some construction sites in Massachusetts. They also griped because he reduced state funding for a salary differential officers get if they earn added college degrees in criminal justice.

But any grievance by any group touched by the Patrick administration since January 2007 would have illustrated the challenge.

While the police officers made their point by disrupting Patrick’s first event, the governor’s political advisers think the protest underscored his ability to make tough decisions, regardless of the consequences.

And the governor himself embraced his political record – rather than cowered from it – during his re-election announcement speech hours later at Boston English High School.

“In our first term, we have done what we said we would do,” Patrick proclaimed. After ticking through a list of work in the health care, public education, life sciences, infrastructure and government reform arenas, he added: “Do you want to go back? Or do you want to finish what we started? And that is the choice.”

One of Patrick’s main challengers, Republican Charles Baker, argues the governor has failed on several major campaign pledges. They include promises to create 100,000 new jobs, hire 1,000 new police officers and lower property taxes for Massachusetts residents.

Baker, a former health care executive and Weld administration budget chief, notes that the state unemployment rate was 4.6 percent when Patrick took office. Today, it’s 9.5 percent.

“Gov. Patrick has failed to cut spending, consolidate redundant agencies and enact reform,” said a statement issued by Baker’s running mate, Sen. Richard Tisei, R-Wakefield.

Former Sen. Walter Tolman, a candidate for the 2002 gubernatorial nomination and now a political analyst, said Patrick’s challenge may not just be his record, but the anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country.

“The governor is the insider this time, even if he’s pushing a reform agenda,” Tolman said.

Yet another challenge Patrick faces is reassembling the coalition that supported his 2006 campaign.

Some liberals are angry with his efforts to build casinos in Massachusetts. Some unions feel betrayed by his work to change pension laws. And some business leaders are apoplectic about his current effort to administratively cap health insurance premium rates.


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