Two party loyalists debate state of Mass. Dems

TWO DEMOCRATS DEBATED the state of the Massachusetts Democratic Party on The Codcast – with one saying the party is as successful as the recent election results would suggest, while the other raised concerns that the party is failing to deliver the type of small-d democracy the state needs.

Greg Maynard, a Brockton-based political consultant, is the one raising concerns, as he did in a recent commentary in CommonWealth. He worries the Democratic Party has been taken over at the local level by an “activist class” that pushes for candidates leaning to the left. 

Many of the candidates favored by the activist class in 2022 won the party’s convention but lost the primary. Maynard says that disconnect, which has been increasing over the last 16 years, has caused elected officials to ignore the party and its grassroots organizing potential and focus more on currying the support of special interest groups that tend to favor incumbents and the status quo.

“I think you’ve seen a real decline in energy over the last decade and a half,” Maynard said. “That’s coming from elected officials no longer willing to deal with activists that aren’t that interested in electoral success and are much more interested in ideological purity.”

Deb Kozikowski, the vice chair of the state Democratic Party, said Maynard is overstating the importance of the convention. She says convention victories don’t shut out other candidates since it only takes the support of 15 percent of the delegates to win a spot on the primary ballot. 

Kozikowski said the purpose of the party is to get Democrats elected, something the party is doing quite well. In the 2022 election, Democrats took control of all of the statewide offices, including the governor’s office, and increased their super-majority in the Legislature. Kozikowski said having a Democrat as governor should help expand the size of the Democratic Party, and put it in an even stronger position.

The two Democrats spent considerable time debating the political leanings of the winners at the 2022 state Democratic convention before Maynard took his critique of the Democratic Party to a new level.

Maynard said he thinks the Massachusetts election system would benefit from doing away with primaries, as many municipalities do in holding nonpartisan elections where the top two vote-getters in a preliminary election move on to the final. He said nonpartisan elections would focus more attention on key issues and less on party affiliation.

“Massachusetts is an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” Maynard said. “You’ve got a lot of the politics that happen in our state happening in the Democratic Party. It just wasn’t set up to have a lot of these discussions happen. Our system is set up with a partisan primary process to have a healthy Republican Party and a healthy Democratic Party get to November and contest the race. That just isn’t happening in most of Massachusetts.”

He noted the state Republican party is small and shrinking because it has been taken over by Trump loyalists. The Democratic Party, by contrast, is too big, he said.

“We all support Joe Biden. We support Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. But the reality is, inside the Democratic Party there are big disagreements about housing and transit,” Maynard said. “They don’t get a hearing because they only happen inside the Democratic partisan primary. They don’t go all the way to November. You don’t get high-turnout elections where voters have a real choice.”

Kozikowski reiterated that the purpose of the Democratic Party is to get Democrats elected, which is what the party is doing.

“We do have a strong Democratic Party in Massachusetts,” she said. “We do fend off many Republicans and we scare them off and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing when your job is to elect Democrats.” 

BRUCE MOHL

 

NEW STORIES FROM COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE

Rules reform: Rules reformers prepare for another fight in the Legislature – a look at what’s at stake and the difficulty in tracking the lergislative process on Beacon Hill. Read more.

OPINION

Ashmont Grill closing: Michael Jonas of CommonWealth, one of the original investors in the Ashmont Grill in Dorchester, laments the closing of the restaurant after 18 years and looks back at the way the business helped anchor and revitalize a section of Dorchester. Read more.

Competitiveness is key: J.D. Chesloff of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable says competitiveness, particularly in recruiting employees, is the key right now for Massachusetts and offers suggestions on how to achieve it. Read more.

At a crossroads: K.J. Seung, the medical director of infectious diseases at the Montachusett Public Health Network, says public health is at a crossroads and the state can’t go back to where it was pre-COVID. Read more.

 

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