Commonwealth Magazine

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MASSACHUSETTS DEMOCRATSseeking a sweep of the state’s six constitutional offices, leaned heavily toward women on Saturday at the party’s state convention in Worcester.

Attorney General Maura Healey easily won gubernatorial endorsement over Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain with 71% of the delegate vote, while Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll finished far ahead of Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton and Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow. to win the lieutenant governor’s approval with 41 percent.

In the race for Commonwealth Secretary, Tanisha Sullivan, the former NAACP leader, won the party’s endorsement over seven-term incumbent William Galvin by a 62-38 margin.

The race for Attorney General was incredibly tight. Former Boston City Councilwoman Andrea Campbell narrowly edged Quentin Palfrey on the first ballot, 39.2-38.8 percent. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan came in third with 22% of the vote.

Since no candidate received 50% of the vote, the top two candidates proceeded to a second ballot, where Palfrey won 54–46 and walked away with the convention’s approval.

In the race for the listener, Chris Dempsey edged out Senator Diana DiZoglio by a 53-47% margin. Treasurer Deborah Goldberg ran unopposed for her position.

Party approval is an indicator of political and organizational strength, but it is not a guarantee of victory in the September primary. All candidates advance to the primary except for lieutenant governor candidates Senator Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and businessman Bret Bero, who failed to win 15% support delegates and were expelled from the field.

Here are some observations from the convention:

Striking convention differences

The Democratic state convention in Worcester was very different from its Republican counterpart in Springfield two weeks ago.

Where Republicans avoided masks and acted like COVID was in the rearview mirror, Democrats insisted on proof of vaccination to enter and made masks mandatory.

As Republicans applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision to give states control over abortion, Democrats invited one of the state’s leading abortion rights advocates to speak to their delegates.

Where Republicans have called for lower taxes, Democrats have pushed for the millionaire tax.

While Republicans counted their delegates the old-fashioned way — by hand — Democrats used an app that generally seemed to work well.

Republicans never mentioned unions at their convention, but Democrats hailed unions at every turn. Steven Tolman, the president of the AFL-CIO of Massachusetts, said during a speech to delegates that Democrats must regain control of the governor’s office in part because Republican Gov. Charlie Baker rejected an offer from a public sector union to reopen a labor contract to adjust pay levels to offset inflation.

Attorney General’s Expectation Game

Andrea Campbell, the frontrunner in the polls and in fundraising, said she considered her narrow first-round victory a big win. She said she would be the first black woman to qualify for the Democratic primary. (Sullivan, in the Commonwealth Race Secretary, also did this on Saturday.)

But Quentin Palfrey said his second-round win, after Shannon Liss-Riordan was ruled out, changed the dynamics of the race. He said he now has a clear path to victory as the party-endorsed candidate and believes primary voters will gravitate towards him when they learn where he and Campbell diverge on the issues.

Attorney General candidate Quentin Palfrey. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

“We disagree on single-payer health care. We disagree on safe injection sites. We strongly differ on charter schools. We disagree on free public transit, accountability for police, rent control and we absolutely disagree on clean elections,” Palfrey said.

Liss-Riordan, who has obviously cut off Palfrey’s support at the convention, has indicated she’s not going anywhere. “I came here today to be on the ballot and we are very happy to have been on the ballot. That was the focus today,” she said.

Liss-Riordan has convincingly demonstrated that she is the most qualified candidate in a legal sense to become Attorney General. She said she was the only practicing lawyer in the race, the only candidate to have run a law firm, and the only candidate to take on giant corporations like Amazon and IBM on behalf of workers.

“For the past two decades I have worked as a private attorney general,” she said.

The race for listeners is tight

The Democratic race for listeners takes the form of a knife fight between two politicians who demonstrated their considerable skills at the convention.

Diana DiZoglio gave a strong speech that showcased her own personal story, rising from community college to Wellesley College, and from legislative aide to state representative and now senator.

She also emphasized her willingness to challenge authority as a state legislator and her desire to continue to do so as an auditor. She also poignantly recounted how her mother nearly died last year due to a drug overdose. “It was extremely difficult to watch her struggle,” she said.

Outgoing state auditor Suzanne Bump and Chris Dempsey, whom she endorsed to succeed her. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

Chris Dempsey, a transportation advocate and a leader in the effort to keep the Olympics from coming to Boston, asked current listener Suzanne Bump to introduce him.

“It’s an honor to be endorsed by the person who knows this job best,” said Dempsey, who described the auditor’s job as the state’s “head of accountability.”

Bump delivered some not-so-subtle digs to DiZoglio, who the auditor said overstated the auditor’s credentials, particularly his ability to audit the Legislative Assembly. Bump said Dempsey would not use the audits to score political points.

Two very different candidates

William Galvin and Tanisha Sullivan will offer primary voters a real choice.

Galvin, 71, was first elected secretary of state in 1994 and took office in 1995 when Bill Weld was governor. All of the other convention candidates saw their supporters swarming the stage with signs as they delivered their speeches. Galvin didn’t care.

“Democracy is not a matter of rhetoric. Democracy is in the details,” Galvin said, noting that he has been delivering to voters during the pandemic and is needed nationally more than ever as the top Democratic election official in the United States.

Sullivan, in her address to delegates, promised that she would be proactive, not reactive, as secretary of state in pursuing voting, business regulation, and public records reforms. She said Massachusetts is the most expensive state in the nation to start a business, one of the least transparent, and years behind in granting some voting rights.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin and his predecessor in office, Michael Connolly. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

“Historically in Massachusetts we’ve been used to voting for incumbents and saying just because somebody’s doing a pretty good job, why are we changing,” Sullivan said after his convention win. “Right now, what we know to be good enough is not enough. In fact, good enough could set us back decades.

Meet the author

Editor, Commonwealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of Commonwealth magazine. Bruce came Commonwealth from boston globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions spanning business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as Worldchief of the State House bureau in the late 1980s. He also reported for the World‘s Spotlight Team, which won a Loeb Prize in 1992 for its coverage of conflicts of interest in the state pension system. He served as World‘s political editor in 1994 and continued to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. To Commonwealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written on a wide range of issues, with a particular focus on politics, tax policy, energy and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of Commonwealth magazine. Bruce came Commonwealth from boston globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions spanning business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as Worldchief of the State House bureau in the late 1980s. He also reported for the World‘s Spotlight Team, which won a Loeb Prize in 1992 for its coverage of conflicts of interest in the state pension system. He served as World‘s political editor in 1994 and continued to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. To Commonwealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written on a wide range of issues with a particular focus on politics, tax policy, energy and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Galvin said he used to lose at conventions, having done so three times before. Josh Zakim beat him at the last Democratic convention with 55% of the vote. After each convention defeat, Galvin said, voters returned him to power with ever-higher margins.

“I’m optimistic people have been pretty supportive,” he said.

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