DC Analysis: Deval Patrick, America’s most unpopular governor

Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick may well be the least popular governor in the United States.

That’s not hyperbole. Earlier this year, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling company, measured the popularity of a large handful of governors. Patrick, elected in Massachusetts back in 2006, faired the worst among those measured, with a 22% approval rating. A solid majority, 59% of Bay Staters, disapproved of Patrick’s job performance.

Many political commentators have defended Patrick, saying his numbers had tanked due to the poor economy. But Jodi Rell, Republican governor in neighboring Connecticut, enjoyed a 49% – 39% approval-disapproval rating. Even then-Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, the poster boy for out-of-touch state politicians, ranked higher than Patrick.

Patrick may win reelection this year thanks solely to a three-candidate governor race in which the anti-incumbent vote is split. But barring a political miracle, he’ll still remain wildly unpopular. How did this happen? Let’s count the ways.

His Very Own Bailout – Prior to running for governor, Patrick served on the board of directors of ACC Capital. One of ACC’s subsidiary mortgage companies, Ameriquest, was accused of predatory lending and ACC fell on hard times. Patrick swooped in, calling up Citigroup where his old friend from the Clinton administration, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, worked, and requested a cash transfusion for ACC. Patrick later claimed he had contacted Citigroup only as a lowly former board member – even though he also happened to be the most powerful elected official in Massachusetts.

Cronyism, Part 1 – Patrick likes to reward old friends with jobs. Massachusetts Republicans think of it more as a patronage mill. First, Patrick created the position of Director of Real Estate Services and filled it with attorney Dana Harrell. Harrell is a neighbor of Patrick’s and donated to his gubernatorial campaign.

Cronyism, Part 2 – A year later Patrick nominated state Sen. Marian Walsh, a political ally, to the job of assistant executive director at the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority. The plum position, which had been vacant for 12 years, came with a $175,000 per year salary. Patrick adamantly denied that he had anything to do with Walsh’s hiring, a claim that was almost immediately contradicted by leaked e-mails. Walsh declined to accept the position shortly thereafter, but the damage was already done.

Sales tax hike – To help raise revenue for the state, Patrick hiked the Massachusetts’ sales tax rate from 5% to 6.25%. Both of Patrick’s gubernatorial opponents are pledging to cut the sales tax.

The missing cops – Patrick promised during his campaign to put 1,000 new police officers on the streets. Instead he’s replaced uniformed cops with flaggers at construction sites and slashed pay for officers who receive degrees. Many of the police unions that supported Patrick in 2006 are now lining up behind state Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is running for governor as an independent.

Sanctuary state – Patrick has said he would support both in-state tuition and drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. Even in left-wing Massachusetts, 84% disagree.