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By Andy Metzger


BOSTON — The winner of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election will quickly eclipse Gov. Deval Patrick in stature, becoming the new center of attention even though Patrick will hold the Corner Office until early January.

“All of the focus switches to the incoming governor, and everybody trying to position him or herself,” said Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer, who witnessed the process firsthand in the Sargent administration and the first Dukakis administration. He said, “Almost everybody wants something.”

Unlike Sargent and Dukakis who lost re-election bids, Patrick has long made clear he would not seek a third term. Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker are the frontrunners to succeed him.

“The phone stops ringing. I mean the main thing is when you’re out you’re out,” Widmer told the News Service in mid-October, referring to the experience within the office of a losing governor. He said, “You quickly lose your power and your relevance.”

While Patrick still retains power and prestige of the office, Widmer said, the crowd of people seeking him out has “probably slowed down during this election year.”

Widmer said a lot of the important work of determining priorities and policies occurs during the campaign, and the publicly named transition teams tend to be “more window-dressing than reality.”

The president of the influential, business-backed public policy group since 1992, Widmer has announced plans to step down from his position at MTF.

Widmer said the governor can be helpful assisting the transition. Patrick has appointed Brian Gosselin to head up the effort.

“A key part of any transition is reaching out or not to the Legislature, and building the kind of relations that are critical to an effective administration,” Widmer said. Widmer, who has observed other transitions during his time in public life said the “most successful” incoming governors are the ones who “understand the need to set priorities and focus their efforts.”

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