Mass. Democratic Party chair candidates look toward 2022
Race focusing on who’s best to win back corner office
WITH THE 2020 election in the rearview mirror, the Massachusetts Democratic Party is gearing up for its next fight: to retake the governorship in two years.
Speaking on the Codcast, party chair Gus Bickford argued that he is best positioned to lead the party in that battle. But Mike Lake and Bob Massie, who are challenging Bickford for the chairmanship, say it is time for new leadership. The Democratic State Committee elects its new chair November 12.
Bickford said he has been involved in politics for over 30 years. “It’s something that’s in my blood and I have a lot of passion for, and in the last four years as chair, I think we’ve had a tremendous amount of success in the party,” Bickford said, pointing to electoral victories in the Legislature and the grassroots organization he built. Bickford said the party must do better than in 2018 to win the corner office. “I think that someone who has the experience of being here before and knowing what we need to do is a good place to start,” he said.
But Massie argued that Bickford has been an unsuccessful fundraiser and has weakened the party. “Money comes when you have exciting ideas and when you are really leading for the future and that’s what I think the party is not doing,” Massie said. “It’s actually getting weaker. And as a result, I think we’re poorly positioned to win the governorship unless we make some significant changes and improvements immediately.”
Massie said there are structural problems – particularly an inability to attract young or new voters – that Bickford “has either not noticed or that he has been unable to address.” He added: “Many people say that you just don’t listen to young people, you don’t welcome their ideas, whether it’s the high school Dems, or the college Dems, or the young Democrats, they feel like they’re being told to wait for another couple of generations.”
Lake said despite heightened Democratic activism nationwide, the number of registered Democrats in Massachusetts has decreased. “We can’t win races if we’re not inspiring people who even believe what we believe,” Lake said.
“The reason Charlie Baker… was considered the most popular governor in America is because the Democratic Party was not providing ample contrast,” Lake said. “If we’re going to defeat Charlie Baker or Karyn Polito or whomever the next Republican is running for governor, we have to provide a different and contrasting vision to the future of Massachusetts. And we have to highlight the differences in our approach in every single decision that the governor makes.”
Bickford defended his record, saying voter registration dropped due to a purge in the voter rolls and he has raised significant money for state and federal races. Bickford said ward and town committees “are probably stronger than they have been in 10 years.” He has broadened outreach – by holding a training at Roxbury Community College, for example – and recruited diverse staff. He recruited diverse candidates.
Massie also criticized Lake for wanting to take on the chairmanship part-time. Bickford has been doing the job full-time. “There’s going to be a huge amount of work that’s going to require a rethinking of the party across every major category,” Massie said.Lake said the salary of the party chair has gone up over the years from a $5,000 stipend to a $100,000 salary – which Bickford is making now – and until former chair John Walsh, the chairmanship was never a full-time position. Lake said the chair’s role is not to be a full-time operations manager, but someone focused on oversight and establishing strategic direction. “If you’re in the weeds, you do not have the ability to provide the strategic direction that we need,” Lake said.
The podcast was taped before a report was released Friday criticizing Bickford and the party’s executive director, Veronica Martinez, for their handling of allegations of sexual impropriety involving former congressional candidate Alex Morse. The report led to calls by Morse and others for Bickford to step down.