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Mass. Democrats Heading To Wide-Open Convention In Worcester

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Massachusetts Democratic Party
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Massachusetts Democrats will flock to Worcester today for the party’s state convention this weekend.

Two days after President Obama visited the Heart of the Commonwealth for a high school graduation, his fellow Democrats will converge on the DCU Center. The biggest question mark is who of the five candidates will get the party’s endorsement or even will still be in the running to succeed popular Governor Deval Patrick. State Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Treasurer Steve Grossman, biotech executive Joe Avellone, former federal healthcare administrator Don Berwick and national security expert Juliette Kayyem are looking to secure 15 percent of the delegates to be on the primary ballot in September. State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield was recently chosen to carry the Democrats’ message through the election cycle.

“I think there is a lot of excitement for convention in that it seems to be a fairly wide-open race,” Downing said. “You have public polling that’s been pretty consistent that puts Martha Coakley in the lead overall in the primary, but I think it’s widely expected that Steve Grossman will win the convention. I think that sets up a dynamic that we really haven’t seen in some time in a gubernatorial race.”

Sheila Murray heads the Berkshire Brigades, the county’s Democratic wing. She says there’s no clear frontrunner, but says Berwick has made his mark on the area after being the first candidate to campaign here in April.

“Don Berwick has an excellent campaign going on,” Murray said. “We’ve heard a lot from them. Steve Grossman is known as treasurer so he’s got that. Martha Coakley, of course everybody knows who she is. Juliette Kayyem and Joe Avellone are not as well known. Juliette has been put several times and she’s got a good message. So does Joe Avellone. But, whether they’re ready for prime time…I hate to say it that way, but whether they’re ready you know is another question.”

Smitty Pignatelli has represented the Fourth Berkshire District in the Statehouse for the past 10 years. Convinced Grossman will win the convention, the Democrat from Lenox is the supporting the treasurer.

“Anyone of these Democrats can win in a primary,” Pignatelli said. “But I think the Democratic Party has got to look at who can win in November. We know who the Republican nominee is going to be. It’s going to be Charlie Baker. He’s going to be well financed and really organized. I think we have to put up somebody who can toe-to-toe with him financially, intellectually, talk about business, talk about politics. In my opinion Steve Grossman is the only one that can really go toe-to-toe with him and win in November.”

While he isn’t supporting a specific gubernatorial candidate yet and is unsure if he will before the general election, Downing notes no one candidate has caught fire like Deval Patrick did in 2006, but says he’s been impressed at the organization and campaigns so far.

“No one candidate has caught on fire like Deval Patrick did in 2006, but those five candidates have been out there for the better part of a year-plus in most cases, going door-to-door and going to community events trying to make their case,” Downing said. “The hope is for Democrats that adds up and all of that support comes behind, whoever not only comes out of this convention strong, but ultimately wins the primary goes on from there. I think anybody who tells you they know who that is right now, is pulling your leg, but it’ll be interesting to see.”

Murray says the outcome is important in that the convention winner gets his or her name listed first on September’s ballot and supporters of candidates who are eliminated typically throw their weight behind the convention winner.

Downing and Pignatelli anticipate Steve Kerrigan will lead the race for lieutenant governor against Mike Lake, James Arena-DeRosa and Leland Cheung.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin do not have Democratic challengers.

Former state senator Warren Tolman and former assistant attorney general Maura Healey are battling for the AG’s seat.

State Representative Tom Conroy, State Senator Barry Finegold and Deb Goldberg, a 2006 candidate for lieutenant governor are vying for treasurer. 

U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern and Senator Elizabeth Warren are scheduled to help rally the more than 10,000 Democrats expected this weekend with speeches Friday night. After that, the party will officially nominate Democrats facing no primary challengers like Bump and Galvin along with U.S. Senator Ed Markey. Former Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray will be part of a tribute Friday to Deval Patrick who will make his final convention speech as governor. He is not seeking reelection after two terms.

Candidates for treasurer, attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor will speak in that order starting Saturday morning. Endorsement voting will follow.

Charlie Baker is expected to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee, although Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher will have a spot on the primary ballot in September.

Independents Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick are also running for governor.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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