I don’t know about you, but I’m nearly recovered from my grueling 12-hour stay in the DCU Center on Saturday, having spent yesterday enjoying the glorious weather outside and bonding with my dad. It’s time for a recap.
First, the convention went about as I expected, at least in terms of its results. (I did think the first ballot would go more smoothly, with the electronic balloting system that was supposed to be in place.) On all of the races, the BMG aggregate was pretty close. Right on the nose for governor. We were a little off on the other races: The predicted Lake victory became a narrow Kerrigan victory. Tolman’s margin was a bit smaller than predicted. Conroy outpaced Finegold for second. All in all, pretty much as we collectively predicted.
From my point of view, every single candidate who made the ballot on Saturday has reason to be happy, and most have reason to be a little disappointed. Here’s why:
Steve Grossman should be happy for the double-digit win, even though it was widely anticipated. He might be disappointed he didn’t get closer to 40%, and that he didn’t get the chance to rack up big numbers on a second ballot. Now we get to see if Grossman can convert his convention win into anything with primary voters.
Martha Coakley should be happy, or perhaps relieved, that she didn’t finish behind Berwick. That would have been a bigger story and not a good one for her. She should also probably be happy it was late enough in the day for her to appear generous rather than weak by withdrawing the second ballot.
“Given the late hour, candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer agreed not to hold a second ballot for the convention’s endorsement. Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is running for Governor, also declined a second ballot, ceding the convention’s endorsement to Treasurer Steve Grossman.”
is a much better article than:
“Grossman defeated Coakley on the second ballot, to determine the convention’s endorsement, by a 61-39 margin.”
“Coakley, perhaps anticipating an embarassing defeat, chose not to contest a second ballot against Treasurer Steve Grossman.”
I would say that Coakley should be bummed not to have done better, but I think her convention “strategy” all along was to get out of
Dodge Worcester without having screwed up royally, and count on the primary electorate paying no attention to whatever happened at the convention. Mission probably accomplished. And she’s got to be happy with the primary field.
Don Berwick must be happy to have made the ballot (which wasn’t really in much doubt by convention day) and to have come within 50 votes of Coakley. For a first-time candidate 60% of voters still haven’t heard of, that’s impressive. Berwick also seems to have made an impression on at least some supporters of the candidates who didn’t make the ballot, Juliette Kayyem and Joe Avellone. On the other hand, it sure would have been nice for the Berwick people to have headlines saying he bested Coakley. So close, yet so far.
I do not think any of the “Don Berwick as Deval Patrick” themes I’ve seen pushed since Saturday are correct. Deval Patrick did an incredible job in the caucuses and won the convention endorsement with 58% on the first ballot. He went on the win the primary by over 20 points and the general election by 20 over the sitting Lieutenant Governor. Don Berwick, for all the road he’s traveled in recent weeks, came in third.
Steve Kerrigan, who appears the clear choice of most actual “insiders” (as opposed to the silliness of calling all delegates “insiders” by definition) should be happy he came in first.
Mike Lake should be happy he was so close (37% to 35%) and is well-positioned for the primary. Most of the Arena-DeRosa supporters I’ve heard from are now for Lake.
Leland Cheung should be happy he made the ballot, despite talking a million words per minute in his speech. As I indicated last week, I was surprised to see BMG people predicting he’d do well. You were right. Now we’ll see if he can play catch-up with the other two candidates.
Warren Tolman (whose video was excellent, just a lot of fun) should be pleased he came in ahead of Maura Healey. Anything else would have been a bad convention. But it’s clear we’ve got an interesting primary ahead. Tolman, I think, is up to the task. His speech was well-received.
Maura Healey (whose video, though different in style from Tolman’s, also was very good) should be pleased that she pulled 48% against a guy who’s been in Massachusetts politics for over 20 years. She’s for real as a candidate. Even if I continue to think that the people supporting her primarily over the casino issues are way off the mark.
Deb Goldberg should be pleased with a decent win (38.9%) over two current office-holders. It shows that, even though she’s not in office at the moment, she’s for real and has been working hard for support.
Tom Conroy should be pleased with a solid second place showing (33%). Predicted by BMG and others to finish third, he made a positive impression on many delegates.
Barry Finegold should be pleased that many voters won’t know or care what happened in Worcester. He was close enough (27%) that it looks like a pretty even three-way race from here, and it’s anyone’s to win. He should also be pleased he’s got two opponents instead of just one – I think that improves his chances.
Odds and ends:
1. I’ll join those thanking Juliette Kayyem, Joe Avellone, and James Arena-DeRosa for putting their hats in the ring. They poured a lot into their campaigns and have much to offer. I hope they’ll continue to contribute their talents to making Massachusetts a better place.
2. I will not join those bashing the convention procedures or the 15% rule. Candidates knew the rules when they got involved. Those making the ballot this year include newcomer Don Berwick, late starter Leland Cheung, and three candidates for treasurer. Their success, like that of candidates like Deval Patrick from years past, shows that it’s possible to understand the system and garner the necessary delegate support. That, to me, is a good proxy for having political savvy and a good organization.
It’s not exclusionary. The caucuses were open to anyone registered as a Democrat by January 31, 2014. Berwick’s campaign mobilized supporters, who showed up at enough caucuses to win delegate slots. If you’re a Democrat who didn’t show up at the caucus, don’t complain about being “shut out.” The door was wide open. And I guess I missed all the columns making this clear to voters, written early in the year by journalists who now want to take pot-shots at the 15% rule.
Some people say: “Half of Massachusetts voters are unenrolled. Why let the “party insiders” decide who’s on the ballot?” This is wrong on many, many levels. First, the delegates don’t decide who’s on the general election ballot. It’s perfectly possible for a candidate to make the general election ballot without bothering with a party’s primary process. Those candidates are called “independents.” You may have heard of Jeff McCormick, Evan Falchuk, Christy Mihos, Tim Cahill, etc.
No, the convention delegates decide only who’s on the ballot for their own party’s primary. The idea that a party shouldn’t have any say in who makes its own primary ballot is ludicrous. We have a bizarre situation where unenrolled voters can pull a primary ballot and, as a group, have a greater say in who will be the party nominee than party members do. This is especially true for the Republicans, outnumbered 4-1 by unenrolled voters in Massachusetts. I think it only fair that enrolled party members get some gatekeeping function in determining the choices available on that primary ballot. I’ve got no interest in a process where any LaRouchite schmo who can pay to have signatures collected appears on a Massachusetts Democratic Party ballot.
Some people have voiced a problem with the major parties’ very existence. That’s silly. We had a brief experiment without two competing major parties. It ended because people don’t agree on issues and Martin Van Buren exploited that to form the Democratic Party as it stood in Andrew Jackson’s time, with their political opponents falling into the Whig Party. Since then – almost 200 years – we’ve had two major parties. Since the dissolution of the Whigs and rise of the Republicans in the 1850s, we’ve had the same two major parties. If you think they don’t represent the full range of political thought and we need more, you need to fight for proportional representation and instant runoff voting. Not doing that? Then shut up.
3. I also won’t join the chorus characterizing the Worcester delegates as “insiders.” That’s just lazy journalists pandering to lazy voters. Some of them, many of the ex-officio for example, are indeed “insiders.” Others, especially this year, are anything but. Many of Berwick’s supporters are first-time delegates who haven’t been involved in local politics much. In some places, in fact, the Berwick people packed the caucuses with sufficient numbers that local Democratic committee officers were not elected as delegates. Some of those Berwick people, idealists who’ve voted Green for years and aren’t involved with the local Democratic committee at all, would be pretty surprised to hear themselves characterized as “insiders.”
In any event, from my own experience moving back to Massachusetts after years away, it’s ridiculously easy to get involved and be deemed an “insider” by some journalists. A willingness to show up at meetings and knock on some doors will suffice in most cases.
On that note, Scot Lehigh is a jerk and a fool.
4. The DCU Center has its drawbacks, but I don’t know how many realistic options the party has. There aren’t that many fora in Massachusetts that could accommodate the convention. The TD Garden would probably be a better building, but it costs a lot more, there’s very little affordable parking, the hotels around it are expensive, and it’s a haul for those from Western Mass.