A landslide swept Democrat Deval Patrick to victory in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race and to a place in history.
Patrick, 50, became the second African-American governor since Reconstruction. The first, L. Douglas Wilder, of Virginia, left office in 1995.
Patrick's election was a watershed for Massachusetts as well. He became the second black elected to statewide office in Massachusetts. Republican Edward W. Brooke was elected attorney general in 1962 and U.S. senator in 1966 and 1972.
Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters in Boston Tuesday night, Patrick called his victory a vote for change.
"The people of Massachusetts," he said, "chose by a decisive margin to take back their government."
Patrick's election ends 16 years of Republican rule. He defeated Kerry Healey and succeeds Mitt Romney who did not seek a second term and is widely expected to run for president.
"Barriers have been broken, and we should all be grateful for that," Healey said.
Patrick, who grew up poor on Chicago's South Side, won in his first attempt for elective office, completing an unlikely political journey that included stops in the federal government and Forbes 500 boardrooms.
"You are every black man, woman and child in Massachusetts and America, and every other striver of every other race and kind, who is reminded tonight that the American dream is for you, too," Patrick told his cheering supporters.
Born into poverty in 1956, Patrick graduated from Harvard College in 1978 and Harvard Law School in 1982.
After working for the NAACP legal defense fund, Patrick joined the prestigious Boston law firm Hill and Barlow, where he became partner.
He left in 1994 after President Clinton appointed him head of the Justice Department's civil rights division.
He returned to private practice in 1997 only to soon leave and head a task force for Texaco after the settlement of a racial discrimination case. He then became Texaco's general counsel, later moving to a similar post at Coca-Cola.
Patrick is married to Diane Patrick, and they have two daughters, Sarah, 20 and Katharine, 17.
In an interview with ABC's John Berman during the bruising campaign with Healey, Patrick said his candidacy was about much more than making history.
"If all I were offering was the opportunity for Massachusetts to have its first African-American governor, I don't think I would win," he said.
The issues, Patrick said, were jobs and the economy and a divisive Republican administration.
On Tuesday night, he credited a broad coalition of Massachusetts residents for his victory.
Analysts said, however, that his strength came out of the Democratic stronghold of Boston and liberal suburbs, and that turnout among minority voters had soared.
He carried Boston with a 3-1 majority and had solid majorities in predominately white neighborhoods.
The Associated Press said Patrick won a commanding majority of both men and women. A virtual unknown when he began appearing in political circles just a year ago, Patrick announced his candidacy in April.
Few gave him a chance to win the Massachusetts Democratic primary.
On Tuesday night, Patrick was elected governor.