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Mass. Democrats Sending Three Gubernatorial Candidates To Primary; Endorse Grossman

Jim Levulis

The Massachusetts Democratic Party endorsed state Treasurer Steve Grossman for governor at its two-day convention in Worcester over the weekend. Two other party members also made September’s primary ballot.

“Ready to go and to send Charlie Baker back to Swampscott on the fourth of November,” Grossman said as he accepted the party’s endorsement. “All of you will be part of that team. Thank you so very much. I’m honored to be a part of this wonderful party, the Democratic Party.”

Steve Grossman accepted the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s endorsement shortly before 7 o’clock Saturday night, capping an affair that began Friday evening. The party’s five gubernatorial candidates were the last to speak Saturday following addresses by Democrats running for treasurer, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. A sea of supporters overcame those already standing at the foot of the stage at the DCU Center as candidates cycled through. Grossman’s blue and orange so-called “army of activists” edged out those donning light blue for Attorney General Martha Coakley. The treasurer secured 35 percent of the nearly 4,400 delegate votes.

“As your governor, I’ll fight for college access and driver licenses for all our immigrants,” Grossman said. “I’ll fight for common sense limits on gun sales and will always stand strong against the NRA. I won’t just fight to raise the minimum wage, I’ll fight to create jobs that pay a living wage.”

Coakley secured 23 percent, meeting the 15 percent requirement to get on September’s primary ballot. She started out her speech by capturing what many Democrats are worried about: losing the governor’s seat, as Democrat Deval Patrick is not seeking reelection after two terms.

“Democrats we’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Coakley said. “Deval Patrick’s been a terrific governor and we are going to miss him. So here’s what I’ve been thinkin’…maybe it’s time to replace those shoes with some high heels!”

Immediately after that line, Coakley quieted the impassioned crowd by bringing up her 2010 U.S. Senate loss to Republican Scott Brown.

“I understand how much of your heart and soul was in that race, mine too,” Coakley said. “I know how hard so many of you worked in that race and I thank you for that. That loss was difficult. But I made the decision to get back in the ring to fight to end DOMA [and] to fight keep families in their homes because I knew there were more families who needed our help.”

Former federal healthcare administrator Don Berwick turned the most heads and apparently enough votes at the convention. He received 22 percent of the delegates, just one percent less than Coakley. Berwick’s speech didn’t include many rallying cries. Instead Dr. Berwick spoke about a former leukemia patient.

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
Don Berwick received 22 percent of the delegates at the Massachusetts Democratic State Convention in Worcester. It was good enough for third, just one percent behind Martha Coakley who came in second.

“One dark night, 15 years after his leukemia was cured, Isaiah died,” Berwick said. “He died on the streets in despair. He was overtaken by hopelessness. Isaiah had two lethal diseases. We cured one, leukemia. The other killed him. Its name is injustice. It is inequality.”

Berwick says he went into the convention confident he would have enough support to get on the primary ballot. With a message of “all means all” and pushing a single-payer healthcare system, he says he’s made it a three-way race. Berwick later explained his decision to go with that type of speech.

“I spoke from my heart,” Berwick said. “I am running because I care about what I talked about. The person I talked about was real. He was part of my life. I watched him die. He shouldn’t have died. We need to restore the values that would have allowed that person to have a fair shot at participating in our society and our economy. There are hundreds of thousands of people like him who are feeling excluded. That’s not the kind of state we ought to be and that’s not the state we need to be. So you heard me talk about why I’m running for governor.”

Coakley says she felt it was important to tell people she understands how tough the 2010 loss was and that she is ready to move forward.

“We have always said we’ve had five great candidates,” Coakley said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen until we got here today except we were going to get 15 percent. Berwick’s been saying for a long time he’d get his 15 percent. He was right. We look forward now going forward to the primary. We’ve got three great candidates.”

Coakley has held a commanding lead over Grossman in election polling. A poll last week by The Boston Globe showed 49 percent of voters would choose Coakley in the primary, compared to only 14 percent for Grossman. Grossman says it will ultimately come down to a choice between him and Coakley.

“The overwhelming frontrunner according to the polls was rejected by 75 percent of the delegates in this convention hall,” Grossman said. “You cannot be governor of Massachusetts without having that arm of activists behind you.”

Juliette Kayyem received 12 percent of the delegates while 7 percent voted for Joe Avellone, not enough to get on the primary ballot for governor.

The Massachusetts Republican Party is endorsing Charlie Baker for governor, but Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher will be on the primary ballot after the party conceded a spot. Fisher filed a lawsuit after the party’s convention in March claiming votes were manipulated so he wouldn’t get the necessary 15 percent to be on the ballot. He got 14.765 percent.

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

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