Massachusetts Democratic State Convention, Day 1
by cos, Sat Jun 03, 2006 at 09:05:23 AM EDT
Friday, June 2nd - Some things don't change: When I was in college, the LGBT group on campus always had the best parties. Here at the Massachusetts Democratic State Convention, MassEquality has the best party. Another pattern I've noticed: Everywhere I go in Worcester, MA seems to have a free wireless network. Is this what municipal wi-fi would be like?
The first day of the state convention officially closed several hours ago. Swirling rumors notwithstanding, nothing exciting happened aside from Ted Kennedy and George McGovern's speeches. Today, the party voted on the uncontested candidates for Democratic nominations for statewide office: Ted Kennedy for US Senate, Joe DeNucci for Auditor, Tim Cahill for Treasurer, and Martha Coakley for Attorney General. All of them will be on the ballot, with the party's endorsement.
The real excitement will wait for tomorrow, when delegates vote on contested races. Each candidate for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary, needs at least 15% of the vote to be on the September primary ballot; in each race, one candidate will get the convention endorsement with the support of more than 50% of the delegates. Among the candidates are Matt Stoller's favorite politician Deval Patrick, and the candidate I work for, John Bonifaz. And for all three offices, the outcome is uncertain.
The new progressive grassroots/netroots movement that sprang up nationally during the 2003 Democratic presidential primary campaign got a head start here in Massachusetts with Robert Reich's run for Governor in 2002. At the 2002 convention, progressives pulled an upset by getting Reich on the ballot. Since then, we've learned a lot, and competed in many campaigns. This is is the first nominating convention (held every 4 years) since the Reich vote, and a test of how far we've come. Here's what we're looking forward to tomorrow...
- Governor: Deval Patrick, Tom Reilly, Chris Gabrieli
Tom Reilly is the Attorney General, so when he decided to run for Governor more than a year ago, everyone assumed he'd be the favorite for the Democratic nomination. Progressive candidate Deval Patrick, who served as head of Clinton's civil right's division and has been a reformist corporate lawyer and board member, was an outsider to the Massachusetts political scene, but he quickly captured the hearts of an energized grassroots. Throughout last year, rumors flew about whether Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, often referred to as the dark prince of Massachusetts politics, would enter the race, but at the end of 2005 he declared that he would run for re-election. By then, speculation was rampant that Chris Gabrieli, the Lieutenant Governor nominee from 2002, would join the race.
Caucuses to elect delegates to the nominating convention were held in early February, with only Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick running. Defying all expectations, Deval Patrick not only elected more than enough delegates to get on the ballot, but actually beat Tom Reilly 2-to-1! I can clearly remember the shock. None of us expected to win. Suddenly, Deval Patrick became the favorite for the convention endorsement. Local bloggers covered the caucuses across the state - almost all of us Deval Patrick supporters. You can still feel the excitement of that day reading through those comments.
... and then, Chris Gabrieli threw a new wrench into the works, by declaring his candidacy for Governor after the caucuses. The state party reinterpreted their rules to get him on the convention ballot: instead of getting the required number of delegate signatures from elected delegates, he could get them from ex-officio delegates (town party chairs, elected legislators, state committee members...). Since Gabrieli did not run in the caucuses and no delegates were elected to support him, he's going to depend entirely on uncommitted delegates and persuading other candidate's supporters. With so many delegates known to be Deval Patrick supporters, it's possible that Gabrieli will fail to get his 15%... or, some people say, if he does get 15%, it'll be by taking enough votes away from Reilly that he won't get 15%. Personally, I'm confident Reilly will get on the ballot, but I'm not so sure about Gabrieli. Either way, Deval Patrick is nearly assured the party's endorsement, a position we didn't even imagine 4 months ago.
- Lieutenant Governor: Andrea Silbert, Deb Goldberg, Tim Murray
Until last week, we had four candidates for Lt. Governor... and a lot of undecided delegates and activists. The likelihood that one of the four would not get 15% at the convention was high, and the most likely candidate to be denied a spot on the ballot seemed to be Dr. Sam Kelley. Then Kelley, who had focused his campaign on health care, dropped out of the race to become a health care advisor to Deval Patrick, who he had previously endorsed for Governor. At the same time, progressive support began to quickly coalesce around Andrea Silbert, founder of the Center For Women & Enterprise, which helps women start businesses.
Tim Murray is the mayor of Worcester, where we are convening this weekend. Deborah Goldberg is the former chair of the board of selectmen of Brookline, the closest equivalent to Mayor in Brookline's Town Meeting style of Government. Both of them are good, strong candidates with a lot of money and supporters. We expect all three candidates to get on the ballot, but it's far from clear which of them will get the party endorsement - the only surprise will be if we don't have to go to a second (runoff) ballot to determine it. It is beginning to look like Silbert's level of support may be a test of progressive strength at the convention.
- Secretary of the Commonwealth: Bill Galvin, John Bonifaz
(Disclosure: As I noted above, I work part time for Bonifaz. I'm his campaign blogger, and invite you to visit his web site to read my posts there.)
This is the only statewide race in which an incumbent Democrat is facing a challenge. Secretary Galvin was first elected to the office in 1994, has no major scandals or blots on his record, and through his office, controls a large number of state jobs. For Bonifaz, it's an uphill fight to get on the ballot. As the Globe reported last week,
"Galvin is battling furiously to avoid a primary fight. Galvin, the only statewide incumbent with a challenger from his own party, is telling delegates to next week's Democratic Party convention that his opponent, voting rights lawyer John C. Bonifaz, should be denied a spot on the September primary because he isn't really a Democrat."Bonifaz, for his part, is focusing on leadership. As founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, lead counsel for the Ohio recount after the 2004 election, and the person who forced a recalcitrant Massachusetts legislature to fund a voter-approved clean elections law in 2002, he has a strong case to make that Galvin would rather deflect by focusing on his long history of party loyalty.
On Huffington Post, Steve Cobble urges Massachusetts Democrats to put Bonifaz on the ballot. I've been talking to delegates in the convention hall and at the parties, and things look ... mixed. Some delegates turn away and decline to even exchange a greeting when they see a Bonifaz flyer. A few tell me politely that they support Galvin. Some light up with a smile and point to their Bonifaz stickers. And some look curiously, and ask me who he is. Every conversation I've had with one of the latter, so far, has ended with them saying they'd likely vote for Bonifaz tomorrow. But there are an awful lot in that first category, and I don't know what the numbers are like.
Oh, and let's not forget the party charter amendments...