BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday he won't be a candidate for president in 2016, even as speculation about his political future soared after the chairman of the state Democratic party announced he was stepping down to head up Patrick's political action committee.
John Walsh was named party head in 2007 after helping Patrick win the governor's office a year earlier. Walsh said Tuesday he will resign this fall to become executive director of Patrick's Together PAC.
Patrick formed the PAC in 2011 to help pay for his travels around the country campaigning on behalf of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and supporting the national Democratic Party.
Patrick said he now wants to "repurpose" his PAC for the next 18 months and beyond to focus on supporting what he called "grassroots, conviction-based politics here in the commonwealth and elsewhere."
Instead of supporting individual candidates, Patrick said he envisions using the PAC to help pay for political organizing efforts by like-minded Democrats.
"I am interested in people who are willing to run, willing to lose, meaning that they actually believe in something and are willing to put it on the line so we want to support that both here in the commonwealth and elsewhere in the country," Patrick told reporters.
Patrick's decision to move Walsh over to his PAC comes as donations to the political committee have accelerated in recent months.
The Together PAC reported pulling in $121,661 in donations during the past three months, more than double the $56,568 the PAC raised in the first three months of the year.
Many of the donations from the past three months came from Patrick supporters from outside of Massachusetts, including backers in Missouri, Illinois, Georgia, California, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.
The bulk of the donors came from inside Massachusetts.
Patrick had $388,057 in the account as of the end of June.
Patrick said the purpose of the PAC is still a work in progress.
"We are developing some of the specifics of what the next 18 months and beyond will be," he said.
Walsh, who said Patrick also told him he won't run for president in 2016, said part of his new job as head of the PAC will be helping schedule Patrick's travels.
"The governor does receive a lot of invitations," Walsh said. "He's a pretty good speaker and he articulates the values of the party and the brand of politics that Democrats across the country are interested in."
Walsh also said that there were no plans to use the Together PAC to raise money to make donations to specific candidates in other states - a strategy employed by other candidates with national ambitions, including former Gov. Mitt Romney as he built his campaign for president.
"The Together PAC has not done any of that," Walsh said. "I'm not anticipating any changes."
A replacement for Walsh will be made by a vote of the party's Democratic State Committee. Walsh said he wasn't aware of any candidates yet. The committee's next meeting is next week.
Walsh conceded that his worst days as chairman came during the 2010 special U.S. Senate election when the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley lost to Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Walsh said that loss was also a learning moment. He said the party has bounced back and renewed its focus on building its grassroots outreach.
"One of the great opportunities I was given was screwing up that special Senate election and the opportunity to learn from that mistake," Walsh said. "Making that mistake informs me a lot. It doesn't haunt me anymore. We've beaten that ghost a little. We've shown that we learned those lessons."
Walsh said he's committed to heading up the Together PAC through the end of Patrick's term as governor.
Patrick said he plans to return to the private sector after leaving office in January, 2015.
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