Greetings from the Fourth Middlesex delegation. Remember us?
We were up in Section 218 of the DCU Center. For those who don’t know the geography, Section 218 contains the two for $3 seats that never get sold for Worcester Sharks games. These seats were so far away from the large screens surrounding the podium, it was a challenge to read the closed captioning.
Senator Ken Donnelly is proud of his district. He carries around, in his wallet, a summary of the results from the twelve municipalities with the largest vote totals for Ed Markey in last year’s special US Senate election. Two of his towns, Arlington (8) and Lexington (12) are on the list. The top twelve gave Ed Markey a plurality of more than 126.000 votes in an election Markey won by 117,908 votes. Yet Arlington and Lexington were in the farthest corner of the upper rafters in Section 218.
So a clearly miffed delegation, containing two towns that generate a ton of Democratic primary and general election votes, was looking around at who got better seats (everyone), including districts with Republican senators (sections 112, 113, 213, and 215) as well as guests (section 111). When Warren Tolman’s video showed Ed Markey’s desk in the statehouse hallway, the prevailing thought in Section 218 was “who did this to us and why?”
Of course, being perched in the midst of an angry delegation in the rafters certainly gives one a different perspective on conventions and convention seating. However, the Fourth Middlesex experience raises some important questions of what a delegate has a right to experience at a state convention. What are reasonable expectations when you send your $75 to the party, and what level of equity should be provided for all delegates attending the convention?
My observation is that the DCU center is a horrible venue for a convention if you need to park delegates in the rafters. Just getting from the entrance on the floor level up to the concourse level, which was used to access many of the 100 level and all of the 200 level seats, was challenging. There were only a couple of aisles that would lead you up from the floor to the concourse, which made it a difficult trip through congregating crowds of folks who had seats in that neighborhood. Heading up into the 200s, the stairs were steep, shallow, and difficult for many of our delegates to transverse.
Once you were in the rafters, the experience was very different for delegates in exile versus delegates on or near the floor. There’s a flow of interesting people moving through the convention floor, but even the young campaign operatives giving away campaign signs were discouraged from finding folks in the rafters. Steve Kerrigan found his way up to Fourth Middlesex, but then again his senate district (Worcester & Middlesex) was next to us in Section 219.
Clearly, there was a major difference in the quality of seats and the convention experience between the Third Essex (in front of the podium) and the Fourth Middlesex (behind the Canadian flag in the rafters). Yes, somebody needs to get the prime seats, but should there be such a significant difference between the best and worst seats in the hall? Shouldn’t there be a reasonable expectation of the quality of the convention experience? Shouldn’t we hold the event in a venue that can be set up in a manner that guarantees a reasonable standard for a convention experience?
There will always be better and worse seats. Shouldn’t there be some sort of transparency for assigning seats? Should a district’s performance in generating Democratic votes have an influence in seating patterns? That might be controversial, but during the wait for voting results, we came up with a really fun idea. You know those districts that were announced by the chair for being late and very late returning their ballot books? Next time, they get the worst seats.