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At Springfield Convention, Massachusetts Democrats Look To 2020


The Massachusetts Democratic Party held its annual convention in Springfield Saturday, and the focus was on 2020.      "Democrats have a job to do in 2020. Beat Donald Trump. Are you ready for 2020?"

Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren took time off the presidential campaign trail to speak at the state party’s convention, where delegates greeted her like a rock star.

"Warren! Warren!"

And Warren returned the compliments from the roughly 4,000 activists gathered in Springfield’s MassMutual Convention Center.

"Because of your grit, because of your determination, because of your will to fight, Massachusetts has been a beacon of light shining hope across this country," said Warren.

In her keynote address to the convention, Warren pressed her national campaign’s message of bringing big structural change to America’s economy and society. She enumerated the many plans that have become a bedrock and signature of her campaign.

"So I'm here with a message for Democrats: the time for small ideas is over," said Warren.

The convention delegates also showered the state’s junior U.S. Senator Ed Markey with cheers.

Markey is facing a challenge to reelection next year from two, and possibly three other Democrats.

"I am running for re-election and I am asking you to join these fights that will define our future," said Markey.

In an unusual move for an issues-only convention, party officials decided to let Markey’s two announced challengers address the delegates.

Steve Pemberton is businessman from New Bedford who grew up in foster care after his father was killed by gun violence and his mother died of a drug overdose.

"I am running because we should have a United States Senate that reflects the diversity of experiences in America," said Pemberton.

The other announced challenger to Markey is Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney who specializes in workers’ rights cases.

"I am in this race because I believe that the Democratic Party has  failed working people," said Liss-Riordan.

Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III has said he is considering challenging Markey in a Senate primary next year with an appeal for generational change.  

Markey, speaking with reporters, said he is focused on his reelection bid and not on what others might do.

"The response I received today is the response I'm receiving all across the Commonwealth, no matter which community or group that I am appearing before. So I feel very good about the response that I'm receiving today but every day during the course of this campaign," said Markey.

Polls suggest Kennedy would beat Markey.

Kennedy did not address the convention. He participated in a panel discussion in Springfield on confronting racism in politics.

Afterwards he told reporters he will make a decision about a Senate candidacy decision soon.

"I don't think primaries is something that people should shy away from.  The idea behind it is that every seat, my own included, the one that I currently occupy as a member of the House of Representatives, it's up every two years. It's a two-year term. You have to go out and make that case to voters every two years. I don't think that's something that anybody should shy away from, about saying, 'Hey, are you uneasy about making that case?'  And putting the choice before voters about where they stand."

On the eve of the convention, Markey was endorsed for reelection by New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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