Late-starting candidate Deval Patrick lays out policy vision

Alexandra Jaffe
Associated Press

Washington – Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick on Thursday outlined a broad policy agenda Thursday while jabbing at his progressive rivals for proposals that he considers too ideologically inflexible.

“A politics that says we have to agree on everything before we can work together on anything, that offers government by slogan and short-term wins, that consistently puts power ahead of principle, is exactly the kind of politics that brought us to this point,” the former Massachusetts governor writes. He advocates for “leadership that builds bridges.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

It’s a shot at the progressive candidates in the race for the nomination who have argued for a wholesale, systemic overhaul rather than incremental changes. But while Patrick lays out his position on a handful of hot-button issues, his 11-page proposal offers few specifics on policy. He says voters care less about “policy abstractions” and more about “where policy touches people.”

Patrick outlines four themes:

– “Opportunity Agenda,” focused on education, economic and infrastructure investment.

– “Reform Agenda,” focused on health care, criminal justice, immigration and tax policy.

– “Democracy Agenda,” with proposals to expand access to voting.

– “Leadership Agenda,” which focuses on his views on America’s role globally.

Patrick also expresses support for eliminating the Electoral College and backs a universal national service program – proposals that, early on, helped South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign stand out. Patrick proposes allowing individuals to receive free tuition and fees at a public college or university for every year they serve.

On health care, Patrick express support for providing a public option within the Obama-era health law, “one that is free to some and low cost to others, and that could even be modeled on Medicare.”

His education proposals include free schooling from prekindergarten to community college, or the first two years of a four-year college, and allowing people to refinance their student loan debt.

On some issues, such as taxes, he’s among the more conservative in the field.

Patrick expresses support for raising the corporate tax rate to 25%, a stand that aligns him with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

On other topics, including criminal justice and gun control, Patrick aligns with party orthodoxy. He proposes ending private prisons, decriminalizing marijuana, putting in place background checks, enacting a ban on assault weapons and approving a voluntary buyback program.

On immigration, he expresses support for providing a legal pathway to citizenship for young immigrants living in the country illegally who were brought here as children and for others in the United States without legal status. He does not want to eliminate U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as some of his rivals have suggested, but would “overhaul” the agency.

One of the central issues in the campaign is climate change, but Patrick offers few details. He says only that “developing solar, wind and other generation alternatives, as well as ever better strategies for energy efficiency, is essential to moving quickly to a carbon-free future.”

Patrick entered the primary in early November, long after his opponents had released detailed policy proposals, He has spent the past month building campaign staff and raising money. With about six weeks until the primary in New Hampshire, where Patrick hopes for a strong showing, he faces a truncated window to catch up on policy and to get his name out to voters.