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Oops. Missed call by Deval Patrick puts nascent presidential campaign in a jam

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.
Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s presidential campaign is scrambling to collect signatures in Michigan to secure a spot on the state’s presidential primary ballot because neither Patrick nor his aides called the state Democratic Party and asked to be placed on the ballot in the hours after he floated a White House bid this year.

Oops.

If Patrick’s team doesn’t collect another 3,300 signatures by Friday, he won’t be a listed choice for voters in the March 10 primary.

Patrick’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday calling on the Michigan Democratic Party to just request that the secretary of state add Patrick’s name to the ballot instead making him collect at least 11,345 signatures, the legal requirement, which is one-half of 1 percent of the votes 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received in the state in the general election.

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“We owe it to our democratic process and voters to ensure that all candidates who are willing to do the work to compete fairly have an equal shot at winning the nomination,” said Abe Rakov, Patrick’s campaign manager.

However, making an exception for Patrick now would violate state law, according to the Michigan secretary of state’s office.

The drama could have been avoided had Patrick, in his scramble to put together his last-minute campaign, simply called the Michigan Democratic Party in the first 48 hours after the news broke on Nov. 11 that he was considering jumping into the race.

Instead, while he hunkered down to call potential donors and staff, party officials in Michigan were finalizing a list of presidential primary candidates to submit to the secretary of state before a deadline the following day. There were no forms for Patrick to fill out or signatures to collect. The party could have submitted anyone’s name it deemed to be a candidate.

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Party officials ended up submitting a list of 18 names, some of whom have since dropped out. They even included former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg because, a party spokesman told the Globe, Bloomberg reached out and asked to be placed on the ballot, something that Patrick did not do.

Patrick could have also avoided this fate and the whims of the Michigan Democratic Party entirely, had he become a candidate just a bit earlier. The secretary of state’s office could have deemed him a candidate earlier in November just based on news reports alone. Patrick had initially considered getting into the race a year ago but said he demurred when his wife had a cancer diagnosis. She has since been declared cancer free. Instead, Patrick didn’t become an official candidate until Nov. 14, the day he traveled to the New Hampshire State House and filed to place his name on the ballot there.

Soon afterward, Patrick’s campaign learned that he was not on Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary ballot, which is one week after Super Tuesday. He had already missed deadlines to make the ballot in Alabama and Arkansas. His only recourse in Michigan was to get the necessary signatures.

So three days before Thanksgiving, Patrick had organizers on the ground in Michigan begin collecting signatures. The Patrick campaign tells the Globe that it has now collected 8,000 signatures.

They have until 4 p.m. eastern time Friday to submit the 11,345 signatures at the secretary of state’s office in Lansing.

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That day, Patrick is scheduled to be in New Hampshire.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com.