By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick plans to take the “Lone Walk” down the front stairs of the State House a day before Governor-elect Charlie Baker’s inauguration in an attempt to not overshadow the incoming governor’s moment, according to people familiar with planning for the transition of power in early January.
Meant to symbolize the governor rejoining the Commonwealth as a private citizen, the departing governor traditionally walks by himself out the front gates of the State House, which are opened for foreign dignitaries, a visiting U.S. president and for the governor’s walk.
The walk, which dates to Gov. Increase Sumner’s departure in 1799, traditionally takes place the morning of the inauguration, but former Gov. Mitt Romney broke with that tradition in 2007 by doing it the night before to give Patrick the spotlight the next day.
Romney, who had been actively preparing for his first run for president, took some criticism at the time for the appearance that he was anxious to leave early.
“When Goveror Patrick was reflecting on his experience with Governor Romney, he felt his inauguration was very special and with the way Governor Romney handled it, he wanted to extend the same courtesy,” said Patrick administration transition director Brian Gosselin.
Baker is scheduled to be sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 8 by the next Senate president, expected to be Amherst Democrat Stanley Rosenberg.
The “Lone Walk” ceremony for Patrick will begin at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 7 with the traditional exchange of gifts between Patrick and Baker.
The gifts include the ceremonial pewter key to the governor’s office, the Butler Bible left by former Gov. Benjamin Butler to his successors after he found no Bible in the office, the governor’s gavel made from white oak from the frame of the original U.S.S. Constitution, and a two-volume set of the Massachusetts General Statutes, which date to 1860 and typically come inscribed with a note from the outgoing governor.
Patrick communications director Jesse Mermell said that doing the walk a day early will also give Patrick the opportunity to have staff and supporters on hand for the event, while leaving inauguration day for Baker and his team to “celebrate and look forward.”
“The governor will still be the governor,” Mermell said, assuring he will be available to handle any business that might arise before Baker takes the oath of office.
The ceremony has been planned in coordination with Baker’s team so as not to conflict with any activities the governor-elect has planned around his inauguration.
“Governor-elect Baker appreciates and supports Governor Patrick’s wishes and looks forward to what will be a very special week of inaugural events,” said Baker spokesman Tim Buckley.
While the most common practice is for the governor to walk alone, in the recent past some governors like Michael Dukakis, Jane Swift and Romney had their spouses walk with them.
First Lady Diane Patrick, however, does not plan to walk with her husband as he leaves the State House for the last time as governor, though she will participate in other events throughout the day.