Deval Patrick gets tossed up in Scalia replacement musings

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BOSTON – The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has conjured a flurry of media speculation regarding the political future of former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who currently works at a Boston-based private equity firm.

Patrick, a Democrat and friend of President Barack Obama, hasn’t sent any signals of interest in returning to public life. Yet his name cropped up Sunday in published musings over who Obama might nominate to the nation’s high court. Patrick served as the Justice Department’s top civil rights lawyer for several years under President Bill Clinton.

As Senate Republicans push back against the president’s state plans to name a successor to Scalia, the Washington Post dismissed Patrick’s viability as a nominee, saying Sunday that he probably wouldn’t survive what is expected to be a highly politicized confirmation process. The Associated Press left Patrick off its short list of 10 potential nominees, as did, even though the popular website said the former Massachusetts governor and Harvard Law School graduate would be “perfectly qualified.”

Patrick joined Bain Capital, the investment firm his State House predecessor, Mitt Romney, built into a powerhouse, last year. Patrick previously worked for Texaco, the big oil company, and Coca Cola before he ran for governor in 2006, winning two terms. His initial campaign provided a thematic model for his friend Obama’s 2008 presidential run.

The former governor’s name has cropped up earlier amid speculation over whether Vice President Joe Biden would seek the presidency and bring Patrick along as a vice presidential candidate. Phillip Johnston, a former Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman, shot down that idea late last year.

But in the Boston Herald Monday, Johnston is quoted as praising Patrick’s qualifications for the high court: “He has such a strong background in constitutional law, civil rights, civil liberties. He would be an outstanding member of the court.”

Patrick, a native of Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago, has surfaced previously in the mix of potential vice presidential nominees. In 2014, he was mentioned as a possible successor to Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General. Patrick has held his silence about the latest speculation.

But that hasn’t stopped pundits and people like Johnston from feeding the mill of public rumination. “I don’t have any idea whether Deval would want it,” Johnston is quoted as telling the Herald. “But if he did want it, I think those of us who know him well would applaud the nomination very vigorously.”