Monday, June 16, 2014

Dems put their gloves on in Worcester; Convention organizers get a black eye.

After waiting over two hours for vote results at Saturday’s Democratic state convention in Worcester’s DCU Center, political reporter Andy Hiller could be overheard offering a hearty dose of expletives to describe what he perceived as a healthy dose of incompetence on the part of Democrats.  His language was sufficiently flavorful that nearby delegates started referring to the WHDH newsman as “Sunshine”.

Still, Hiller had a point. Saturday’s event had the trappings of an organized mess from the first moments to the final announcement of the day’s winners and losers.  Delegate voting took forever, and then getting the results took even longer.

How many tellers does it take to count a ballot? Actually, it is hard work.

One shouldn't draw grand conclusions out of it, but activating the activist base — and what is a convention if not a room full of party activists? — requires building a little good will among the anointed, and this weekend's show did anything but that. 

The party apparatchiks will review the all of it all, so in the meantime let’s take a moment to talk about the delegates’ choices, the candidates who will shape our primary in September and November’s general election.

Governor — My candidate Juliette Kayyem didn’t garner enough support to get on the ballot.  That is a shame because she offered an energetic example of new leadership in the state.  Still, politics is a game of organizing, and at this level, the state convention is hurdle Number One.  The “Best Organized” award goes to Steve Grossman, who out-hustled everyone else to the finish line, his orange "Grossman 14" t-shirts appearing everywhere, with the occasional super-delegate making a fashion statement out of it.
I'm with Steve, dammit!
In comparison, Martha Coakley was nothing but disappointing to these ears.  Not that Grossman is a rock star.  He certainly is not, but she delivered a flat speech that started off by reminding everyone of her 2010 defeat and all the disappointment that went side-by-side.  Yes, mention it Martha.  No, don’t lead with it.  I don’t see it playing out for her.

Don Berwick is the progressives’ darling.  He’s smart and committed to the cause ... a little too committed perhaps, which leaves me a little unconvinced.  Politics is not a morality play at the end of the day.  It’s the rough and tumble way we make choices as large groups, with our competing interests and differing points of view battling it out. Berwick is the “pure” choice for progressives which gives me pause in such an unpure business. The fifth and final candidate, Joe Avellone, didn’t find the votes so his season's over.

Lieutenant Governor — My candidate Leland Cheung just squeaked onto the ballot with slightly over 16 percent of delegates supporting him.  He (and his wife and child) cut a good figure up on the podium, but there’s still lots of work left for him to do.  The “Best Organized” award goes to Steve Kerrigan who clearly knows what he’s doing out there, and will be a very formidable candidate in September.
Kerrigan brings his A game, and it pays off.
The runner-up award goes to runner-up Mike Lake who came in a close second.  Well done Mike, though I suspect that over the campaign trail, Kerrigan will find ways to solidify the lead he showed at the convention.  Leland still had the best speech. James Arena-DeRosa, admirable man and good public servant, couldn't find enough support to continue to the next round.

Mike Lake talks up a delegate, but somebody is bored!
Attorney General — This is going to be the most interesting race to watch. This is the strongest field, a two-person race, with the most dynamic candidates. My candidate Maura Healey is a fighter — by her own assessment and by the vibe she gives off.  When she says she’ll fight for you, you believe her, because every signal you’re getting from her says — Yes, she will fight. You want that in an AG.

Still, Warren Tolman is no slouch.  To his credit, and as an indication of his poise, his short introductory video was unique by its humor, which made it stand above the rest.  The other shorts were simply a dreadful waste of time.  It's a sign of Tolman's wide-angle view that he can see such a small thing for what it is, such a small thing.  It's also a sign of someone who will recognize a big thing too.

This race is too close to call with each candidate getting around 50 percent of the delegates (Tolman beat out Healey by a hair, and got the party’s endorsement in the process) but it will be lots of fun to watch, with two competent, accomplished lawyers fighting for the brass ring.

Treasurer — An important job but not an inspiring one, Tom Conroy got my support because people I know like him. There’s nothing particular about Conroy to announce him as the obvious choice, except a face truly made for politics, but his credentials are good, his support is broad, his speech solid, and his campaign team hard-working.  Deb Goldberg did just fine at the convention, and these two will battle for votes in a contest where most voters couldn’t tell you one actual responsibility the treasurer has.  So be it.  At least we get to choose.  Barry Finegold didn’t make the cut. 

In summation, here’s the briefest wrap up of Saturday’s state Democratic convention in Worcester I can imagine:
"I think the substance of the convention was excellent. The logistics deplorable."
It comes from a fellow delegate, but I couldn’t agree more.