Mass. Dems lean toward women candidates

Sullivan tops Galvin with 62% of convention vote

MASSACHUSETTS DEMOCRATS, looking for 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 handily won the endorsement for governor over Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain with 71 percent of the delegate vote, while Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll finished far ahead of Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton and Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow to win the endorsement for lieutenant governor with 41 percent.

In the race for secretary of state, Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston NAACP, won the party’s endorsement over seven-term incumbent William Galvin by a margin of 62-38.

The race for attorney general was incredibly tight. Former Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell narrowly edged Quentin Palfrey, the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, in the initial round of voting, 39.2-38.8 percent. Labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan came in third with 22 percent of the vote.

Since no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, the two top candidates went on to a second round of voting, where Palfrey won 54-46 and walked away with the convention’s endorsement.

In the race for auditor, Chris Dempsey edged Sen. Diana DiZoglio by a margin of 53-47 percent. Treasurer Deborah Goldberg ran unopposed for her post.

The party’s endorsement is an indicator of political and organizational strength, but it is no guarantee of victory in the September primary. All of the candidates move on to the primary except for lieutenant governor candidates Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and businessman Bret Bero, who failed to garner the support of 15 percent of the delegates and were removed 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 shunned masks and acted as if COVID was in the rearview mirror, the Democrats insisted on proof of vaccination to gain entrance and made masks mandatory.

Where Republicans applauded the US Supreme Court’s expected move to give states control over abortion, Democrats invited one of the state’s leading abortion rights advocates to speak to their delegates.

Where Republicans called for cutting taxes, Democrats pressed for passage of the millionaire tax.

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

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

Attorney general expectations game

Andrea Campbell, the frontrunner in the polls and in fundraising, said she considered her narrow victory in the first round of voting a big win. She said she will the first woman of color  to make it on to the Democratic primary ballot for statewide office. (Chang-Diaz in the governor’s race, and Sullivan in the secretary of state race, did that as well on Saturday.)

But Quentin Palfrey said his victory in the second round, after Shannon Liss-Riordan was excluded, changed the dynamics of the race. He said he now has a clear path to victory as the party’s endorsed candidate and believes primary voters will gravitate to 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 differ strongly on charter schools. We disagree on fare-free transit, police accountability, rent control, and absolutely disagree on clean elections,” Palfrey said.

Liss-Riordan, who obviously cut into Palfrey’s support at the convention, indicated she is not going anywhere. “I came here today to get on the ballot and we’re very excited we got on the ballot. That was the goal for today,” she said.

Liss-Riordan made a convincing case that she is the most qualified candidate in a legal sense to become attorney general. She said she is the only practicing attorney in the race, the only candidate who has run a law firm, and the only candidate taking on giant corporations like Amazon and IBM on behalf of workers.

“For the last two decades, I have been working as a private attorney general,” she said.

Auditor’s race tight

The Democratic race for auditor is shaping up as a knife fight between two politicians who demonstrated their considerable skills at the convention.

Diana DiZoglio delivered a strong speech that showcased her own personal up-from-the bootstraps story, moving from community college to Wellesley College, and from legislative aide to state representative and now senator.

She also highlighted her willingness to challenge authority as a state lawmaker and her desire to keep doing that as auditor. She also poignantly shared how her mother almost died last year due to a drug overdose. “It has been extraordinarily rough watching her struggle,” she said.

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

Chris Dempsey, a transportation advocate and a leader of the effort to block the Olympics from coming to Boston, had the current auditor, Suzanne Bump, introduce him.

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

Bump delivered a few not-so-subtle digs at DiZoglio, who the auditor believes has overstated the powers of the auditor, particularly its ability to audit the Legislature. Bump said Dempsey won’t use 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. Every other candidate at the convention had their supporters crowd the stage with signs when they delivered their speeches. Galvin didn’t bother with that.

“Democracy is not about the rhetoric. Democracy is in the details,” Galvin said, pointing out that he delivered for voters during the pandemic and is needed more than ever nationally as the most senior Democratic election official in the United States.

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

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

“Historically, in Massachusetts we have been accustomed to just voting for incumbents and saying just because someone is doing a good enough job why are we changing,” Sullivan said after her convention victory. “In this moment, what we know is good enough is not enough. In fact, good enough could push us back decades.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special 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 to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special 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 is accustomed to losing at conventions, having done so three times previously. Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim beat him at the 2018 Democratic convention with 55 percent of the vote. After each convention loss, Galvin said, voters have returned him to office by steadily higher margins.

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