Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick

Former governor, Massachusetts

Deval Patrick has withdrawn his candidacy.

Deval Patrick served two terms as governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015, where he focused largely on economic development, clean energy, and education. A lawyer by trade, he worked in the private sector before and after his time in public office, including stints at Texaco, Coca-Cola, and, most recently, the private equity firm Bain Capital. He also previously worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and as an assistant attorney general in President Bill Clinton’s administration. 

Born and raised in Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1978 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1982.


Patrick says that the United States must work to counterbalance China’s growing power and put human rights and the promotion of democracy higher on the agenda with Beijing. As governor of Massachusetts, he advocated for deeper trade ties between the two countries.

  • He told CFR that he would seek to “rebalance” global power by strengthening ties with allies to create a counterweight to China’s growing international influence.
  • He says that Beijing’s human rights abuses, including against members of the Muslim Uighur minority and its aggravation of tensions in Hong Kong, should result in international isolation. 
  • He is open to imposing sanctions against individuals and firms involved in China’s detention of more than one million Uighurs and promises to raise the issue in any trade negotiations with Beijing. He supports the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, U.S. legislation passed in 2019 that seeks to pressure China’s leaders over Hong Kong.
  • He says he supported the Barack Obama administration’s proposed Asia-Pacific trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), because it would have helped create an economic counterweight to China.
  • He told CFR that President Donald J. Trump’s tariffs on China have done nothing but hurt Americans, and that Trump’s so-called “phase one” deal with Beijing doesn’t address the major problem with China: theft of intellectual property.
  • As governor, he made his first foreign trade mission to Beijing in 2007, where he spoke of Massachusetts’s historic trade ties to China. 
  • During his tenure, he worked to arrange direct Boston-Beijing flights, deepen U.S.-China research cooperation, and increase U.S. companies’ investment in China.

Climate and Energy

Patrick has been vocal about the need to fight climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions, and as governor he sought to move Massachusetts toward renewable energy. Before seeking public office, he worked in the oil industry. 

  • He told CFR that he would restore U.S. global leadership on climate by rejoining the Paris Agreement and by investing in clean energy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
  • Patrick says that a cap-and-trade program, which would create a market to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, is not good enough and calls for a “multi-pronged” approach to climate change. He promises investments in clean technology, “green construction,” and biotech.
  • He calls for a new “independent global organization” to track progress on climate action, resolve climate policy–related disputes, and coordinate responses to refugee crises caused by climate change.
  • As governor, he pursued a number of green energy initiatives, including new regulations on energy efficiency, requirements for biofuel use, and expansion of solar and wind power. In 2014 he called for an end to all fossil fuel use and touted his administration’s closing of coal-fired power plants.
  • During his tenure, he signed the Green Communities Act, legislation that sought to cut greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and approve Massachusetts’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state program to cap emissions. 
  • He previously served as the top legal counsel for Texaco and helped complete the company’s 2001 merger with Chevron, which created the world’s fourth largest public oil company. 


Patrick has released no policy proposals on his counterterrorism approach, but he points to his experience responding to the 2013 terror attack in Boston.

  • In the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Patrick warned against anti-terror efforts that cast suspicion on any particular group of people.
  • Patrick, who weathered criticism over his decision to shut down Boston’s public services and bring in National Guard troops during the attacks, also argued that law enforcement must use their surveillance power prudently and that a mentality of “permanent lockdown” must be avoided to preserve American liberties.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Patrick has long been a proponent of using government leverage to boost technology research and innovation, both domestically and internationally, and he promises additional spending on cybersecurity. 

  • Patrick’s campaign website promises increased investment in cybersecurity, expanded broadband internet, and emerging technology sectors such as robotics.
  • As governor, he expanded funding for technology research, especially biotech and information technologies. He also sought to create global partnerships between the Boston tech community and tech firms in France, Singapore, and elsewhere.


Patrick’s comments on defense issues have focused on wrapping up U.S. military commitments abroad and promoting a more steady projection of U.S. influence.

  • He criticizes “limitless war” and what he calls Trump’s “bullying” and “erratic” approach to wielding American power.
  • He says that he would reevaluate defense spending to ensure that it is “future forward” and equipping U.S. soldiers to deal with emerging threats such as cyber attacks.
  • He told CFR that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is “broken” and that he will restart negotiations with the Taliban with the goal of securing a full U.S. withdrawal. He says he is unable to commit to a timeline for withdrawal in advance.
  • He calls for a national service program that would require all Americans upon reaching age seventeen to serve in the U.S. military or civilian programs, such as AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, in exchange for free public university tuition.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Patrick criticizes what he calls Trump’s “demeaning” and “unpredictable” approach to international alliances and says he would deliver firm and steady leadership instead.

  • He promises a renewal of U.S. leadership on the world stage, closer ties with democracies around the world, and a recommitment to global agreements such as the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate and the Iran nuclear deal.
  • He emphasizes the need to work in coalition, and told CFR that he would recommit to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and other international alliances to address problems, such as climate change, that cannot be solved by the United States alone.
  • He pledges to “rebuild” the ranks of the U.S. diplomatic corps, arguing that record numbers of retirements from the State Department have both weakened U.S. diplomacy and opened an opportunity to attract a younger and more diverse pool of recruits.
  • He told CFR that the Marshall Plan, an investment campaign to rebuild Europe in the wake of World War II, should serve as a model for U.S. foreign policy, which he says has too often focused on short-term thinking.
  • He promises to press international institutions, including the United Nations, to provide a greater voice for growing African countries.

Economic Policy

Patrick’s economic vision centers on his “opportunity agenda,” which he says is about “growing the economy out to working people and the marginalized.” He says the current economic moment requires “revolutionary change.”

  • Patrick’s campaign website lists three major areas in need of greater investment: education and workforce training, innovation and technology, and infrastructure.
  • He says he supports higher taxes on the wealthy, but does not support a wealth tax along the lines of some other candidates’ proposals. 
  • He points to a $13 billion transportation overhaul he passed as governor as a signature economic achievement. 
  • As governor, he quadrupled state spending on education and expanded access to early education and kindergarten.
  • In 2014, he signed legislation to raise Massachusetts’s minimum wage to $11 per hour.


Patrick says that accepting immigrants and refugees is central to American identity, and he advocates for more welcoming policies.

  • Patrick calls for an immigration system that “assures human dignity as well as a secure border.”
  • He promises a path to citizenship for Dreamers, or undocumented residents brought to the country as children. He also pledges to expand work and residency visas, accept more refugees, and reform border detention practices. 
  • He says the United States must better secure its borders but do so in a more effective way than with the physical wall championed by Trump.
  • As governor, he supported comprehensive immigration reform and offered to provide shelter for some of the unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S. southern border, which he called a humanitarian crisis. 
  • He also allowed undocumented residents of Massachusetts to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges.

Middle East

Patrick promises renewed diplomacy in the Middle East, particularly with Iran. As governor, he pushed for closer relations between Massachusetts and Israel.

  • He told CFR that an improved relationship with Iran should be at the center of a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East. He also promises to defend Israel, counter violent extremism, and promote economic development in the region.
  • He says the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, from which Trump withdrew, was an impressive achievement that limited Tehran’s nuclear program while offering sanctions relief to the Iranian people. He argues that leaving it has undermined U.S. and regional security.
  • He pledges to return to the Iran deal and launch negotiations to strengthen it through additional measures to restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program.
  • He told CFR that the Trump administration’s justifications for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020 have been contradictory and incoherent, and he argues that the lack of deliberation put into the decision has undermined U.S. credibility.
  • He promises to “win back the ground we have lost” to Middle Eastern adversaries, including the self-proclaimed Islamic State, due to what he calls Trump’s damaging decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. 
  • While acknowledging Saudi Arabia as a long-standing U.S. ally, he says he would not accept Saudi “misconduct,” such as the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the targeting of civilians in Yemen. He pledges to reassess Washington’s relationship with Riyadh, and to end all U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
  • He calls Israel a “vital democratic ally” whose right to exist is “beyond question,” while he also defends Palestinians’ right to self-determination. He says a two-state solution to the conflict is the only way to guarantee both Palestinian rights and Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
  • As governor, Patrick visited Israel twice on trade delegations, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other Israeli leaders, and founders of Israeli tech firms.
  • He successfully implemented the first direct flights between Tel Aviv and Boston and signed a $1 billion law to support joint U.S.-Israel research exchanges. 
  • He is the founding chairman of Our Generation Speaks, a program that brings together Israelis and Palestinians in joint entrepreneurship projects.

North Korea

Patrick promises to seek an end to North Korea’s nuclear program through diplomacy, and is open to partial sanctions relief if the country takes verifiable steps in that direction.

  • He told CFR that he would work with allies to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and he criticized Trump’s direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “publicity stunts.”
  • He says he would consider lifting some sanctions on North Korea in exchange for “verifiable” progress by Pyongyang toward dismantling its nuclear program.


Patrick warns against Russia’s attempts to “destabilize democracies” around the world and he promotes a stronger defense of Ukraine. He criticizes what he argues is Trump’s willingness to solicit foreign interference in U.S. elections.

  • He told CFR that the United States must do more to address Russian aggression and attempts to interfere in U.S. elections. He pledges to enhance U.S. cybersecurity capabilities.
  • He says he would provide unconditional military and other assistance to Ukraine, work to deepen Ukraine’s cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and strengthen NATO defenses elsewhere in Eastern Europe to deter Russian incursions.
  • He says that Trump’s request that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigate fellow presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is “a crime in and of itself” and calls for Trump’s impeachment.


Patrick has been a proponent of expanded trade, touting his experience growing his state’s trading relationships and making it more competitive in the global economy.

  • He told CFR that he supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it would have helped create an economic counterweight to China while raising U.S. wages and creating jobs.
  • He says he would seek to rejoin the agreement, which was completed by the remaining countries in the pact after Trump withdrew, but improve its provisions on intellectual property and protections for investors.
  • He told CFR that “NAFTA had a lot to answer for,” referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement that critics allege cost U.S. jobs and that Trump renegotiated. He supports the updated version of the deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
  • He advocates for new regional trade partnerships with African countries in order to promote investment and counter China’s influence in the region.
  • As governor, he led trade delegations to a number of countries in the Middle East and Latin America, as well as China, which he says helped make Massachusetts a leader in technology industries and convinced more international firms to headquarter in the state. 
  • He focused specifically on expanding international direct flights to and from Boston’s Logan airport to better position the city in global trade.

Venezuela and Latin America

Patrick calls the political crisis in Venezuela a “calamity” and says it is the result of many years of U.S. failure to build strong alliances in Latin America. As governor, he sought deeper trade and investment ties with countries in the region.

  • He told CFR that he recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela and says he would increase sanctions on members of Nicolas Maduro’s regime to push for a political transition.
  • He pledges to develop a regional coalition that includes Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and Uruguay to press for free and fair elections in Venezuela as soon as possible. He would grant temporary protected status to Venezuelan refugees, which would allow them to live and work in the United States.
  • As governor, he led trade delegations to many Latin American countries, including Mexico and Panama, to deepen investment ties with Massachusetts.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.