Late-starting candidate Deval Patrick lays out policy vision

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick has outlined a broad policy agenda while jabbing at his progressive rivals for proposals that he considers too ideologically inflexible.

The former Massachusetts governor held a policy roundtable Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire, and told reporters afterward that while “others have plans, we actually have results.”

“We got there not by saying it was this way or no way,” he said. “We got there by saying here are the goals and how do we build the coalition to get it done and share the victory.”

The policy goals “are in many cases similar,” Patrick acknowledged when asked how his ideas differed from what other candidates are proposing. “But I don’t think anyone else has the range of experience in actually delivering on some of these things,” he said.

Accompanying the release of his agenda, Patrick wrote that “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.’'

He said he was advocating for “leadership that builds bridges.”

It was 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 outlined 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 backs 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. In New Hampshire, where Patrick hopes for a strong showing in the Feb. 11 primary, he faces a truncated window to catch up on policy and to get his name out to voters.

The Democrats’ latest primary debate Thursday in Los Angeles was going on with Patrick, but he said he thinks the debate rules will change in January and hopes “they change in a way that is more inclusive.”

“I hope more than that that they change the format so it actually serves as a way to communicate with voters and not sort of as a cage fight among Democrats,” Patrick said.


Associated Press writer Hunter Woodall in Manchester, N.H., contributed to this report.