BOSTON (AP) – Deval Patrick, making not only his first run for elective office but also a bid to become the state’s first black governor, beat fellow Democrats Chris Gabrieli and Tom Reilly in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary.

Patrick’s prize was a place in the general election campaign against Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the Republican nominee, as well as independent candidate Christy Mihos and Grace Ross of the Green-Rainbow Party.

They’re looking to succeed Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, the latest in a string of Republican governors; despite the dominance of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, the last Democrat to hold the governor’s office was Michael S. Dukakis, whose term ended in 1991.

“I don’t have all the answers; no candidate does. But I do bring a broader range of leadership experience in government, in business and non-profits and community groups than any other candidate in this race,” Patrick told supporters shortly after 11 p.m.

Patrick, a 50-year-old former Clinton administration official, will be teamed up with Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, who won a three-way primary for the No. 2 spot as the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor.

Gabrieli, a Boston venture capitalist who spent a record $8.4 million on his campaign, ran second, while Reilly, a veteran politician who has served eight years attorney general after eight more as Middlesex district attorney, finished third and suffered the first loss of his political career.

With 88 percent of the precincts reporting, Patrick had 49 percent, or 408,867 votes. Gabrieli was shown with 27 percent, or 225,620 votes, while Reilly trailed the pack with 22 percent.

Healey, who is vying to become the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts, was unopposed in the primary. She told her supporters: “Beginning tonight, the choice facing voters in November finally comes into focus. This election will bring change to Massachusetts – but what kind of change? We will have an option: Will we have two-party democracy and balance on Beacon Hill or go back to a time when the people’s business was done behind closed doors.”

She added: “Deval Patrick’s prescription of higher taxes, more spending and weaker criminal justice laws are just the type of change we can’t afford to make and a risk we cannot take.”

Patrick, quickly offering a retort to his leading rival, said: “Kerry Healey was gracious when she called me this evening. But Kerry Healey, if the best you have is what divides, let me tell you something, I heard from the grassroots all over the commonwealth: We have had enough of that.”

Patrick accused the current administration of starving public schools, standing idly by while violence soared on city streets and of ignoring problems with the Big Dig highway project until a tunnel ceiling collapsed, killing a Boston woman this summer.

“Make no mistake: This election is about whether we want more of all that, or lasting and meaningful change instead, about spinning our wheels or aiming high, about government by sound bites and slogans or leadership that strives to serve our long-term interests in stronger, safer and more prosperous communities,” Patrick said.

It had been a close race among the three Democrats until the last few weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary, when Patrick began to pull away.

Reilly, a longtime politician in the state, had been considered an early favorite because of longtime political roots. Instead, he finds himself with his term as state attorney general ending in January, and the loss – the first of his political career – likely bringing his political career to a close.

He told his supporters: “Hey folks, we gave it everything we had. It just didn’t work out for us.”

Patrick, Reilly said, “has my congratulations and he has my support. It’s time to end 16 years of Republican governors, and I will help him do that.”

Gabrieli, who also offered his support, used his concession speech to lash out at Healey for a television ad she began running last week that suggested he was supporting stem cell research in Massachusetts to boost his personal investments.

He labeled those ads “cynical and dishonest attack ads” and added: “I believe and I know you believe the people of Massachusetts deserve better than this from anybody who wants to be their governor.”

For months, it was a close three-way race among the Democratic candidates. But in recent weeks, Patrick began to pull away.

Patrick waged a largely personality based campaign, urging disaffected voters to “check back in” the political process.

That message resonated with Laura Migliori, a 35-year-old marketing writer from Boston. She said she was undecided for a while, but eventually picked Patrick.

“To me, there’s something about Deval Patrick I trust more,” Migliori said. “He’s smart and he has a good mix of political and business experience, but most of all it’s his support for values I believe in, specifically same-sex marriage.”

Reilly played up his working-class roots as the son of immigrants and a native of Springfield, portraying Patrick and Gabrieli as out-of-touch millionaires.

Ann Marie Noonan, a 26-year-old law student, said she voted for Reilly because of his political experience, although she did not dislike either Patrick or Gabrieli.

“The other two candidates, I’d be happy with either of them in the end,” she said.

Gabrieli, a venture capitalist, positioned himself as the moderate and said was the Democrat with the best chance to beat Healey in November.

Ken DePatto, 54, of Saugus, a construction company owner, said he debated between voting for Reilly and Gabrieli before settling on Gabrieli.

“I went with Gabrieli because I think he had a more structured, business plan approach,” DePatto said. “I think he had a more common sense business approach to some problems.”

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