Dispatches from the Mass. Dem Party Convention Floor: It’s Zakim, Gonzalez, Palfrey; but Their Opponents All Qualify for Primary

The buzz started early Saturday on the floor of the state Democratic Party convention in Worcester. Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim was catching “the big mo’” early on in his upstart bid for secretary of state. While Zakim’s people flooded the DCU Center with florescent yellow t-shits and signs featuring a drawing of the Zakim bridge (named after his dad), not a single “Bill Galvin” sign could be seen. Later in the afternoon, Zakim pulled off the upset. It was the main event in a day that also saw former Patrick administration official Jay Gonzalez win the party’s endorsement for governor and former Obama administration adviser Quentin Palfrey for lieutenant governor.

Party-endorsed candidate for secretary of state Josh Zakim (l) and incumbent Bill Galvin.
I attended the Friday night Galvin pre-convention party and it was even more evident there was zero energy behind the longtime secretary of state. Galvin seemed tired and frail beyond his 67 years.It seemed like Galvin was almost conceding the endorsement. One would think a 24-year incumbent would have at least a couple dozen foot soldiers on hand to rally people who have been voting for him for as long as they’ve been voting.

Galvin’s convention speech was marred by a number of stumbles and hesitations. There is no doubt he has served with distinction over the years but highlighting what didn’t exist when he first took office didn’t help his cause. He talked about the advances made during his tenure but it also reminded people what when he first took office, there was no widespread use of the Internet or even cell phones.

Zakim, while relatively inexperienced, excited people by promoting some new ideas even though most of them can only be enacted through the state legislature. Zakim, or any secretary of state, has no power to institute them. Zakim took 55 percent of the delegates to Galvin’s 45.

The question now is does Galvin call it a career or does he fight on to the primary on September 4th? It’s quite possible that he can galvanize his supporters to turn out. September is a life time away in politics.

Democratic candidate for governor Jay Gonzalez.

As expected, former Patrick administration budget director Jay Gonzalez cruised to the party endorsementover environmental activist Bob Massie. Gonzalez, whose floor operation was exceptional, garnered nearly 70 percent of the delegates. In his speech, Gonzalez looked right past Massie and went after Gov. Baker. Baker is still wildly popular. It will be a heavy lift for Gonzalez to pull off the upset.

The race for lieutenant governor was an interesting match-up. Quentin Palfrey, whose impressive résumé includes a stint as a senior adviser to the Obama administration, faced off against entertainer and recovery advocate Jimmy Tingle. Both have compelling stories although vastly different. Palfrey won with 59 percent.

Note from the floor:
• Gonzalez’s gaffes. Gonzalez has impressed me the several times I had a chance to meet and speak with him. He knows how the process works having been there with Deval Patrick. However, his convention speech surprised me. As expected, Gonzalez was trying to instill in the crowd that Baker can be beat. But in doing so, he blamed the media (and other elements) for Baker’s huge popularity. No, the media did not invent Baker’s sky-high approval ratings. He is that popular.

• Zakim zealots. Zakim’s supporters were energetic and enthusiastic—maybe too much so. In a display of bad taste and bad sportsmanship, some of the Zakim people ran up to the stage with their signs (like all sign-holders do) before Galvin was even off the stage. One young guy even stuck his Zakim sign in front of a camera that was trained on Galvin’s closing and exit. Knock it off, Zakim peeps. Show some respect for a longtime public servant.

• The secretary of state has left the building. Galvin must have felt the atmosphere everyone else did. He left the DCU Center before the final results were available.

• Where was Ayanna? US Rep. Michael Capuano worked the floor and was very well received. He is in a tough primary fight with Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. Curiously, Pressley was nowhere to be found. Not a good move when trying to take out a popular incumbent.

• Lydia Edwards is a rock star. This Boston city councilor gave a rousing speech in nominating Maura Healey for another term as attorney general. (Healey was unopposed). Edwards is passionate, brilliant and a rising star.

Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards.

• Everett’s Mr. Popular. State Sen. Sal DiDomenico was on hand and showed how his gracious, “every man” approach works. He talked to every Everett delegate as well as those from the other parts of his district. Look for “DiDomenico for Massachusetts 2022.”

• No accomplishment? Just latch on. I know it comes with the territory but it’s kind of sad when another politician, particularly one whose position is being seriously challenged, latch on to DiDomenico for dear life. Everett state Rep. Joe McGonagle was “handled” by City Councilor Anthony DiPierro the whole day, getting him into proper positioning for pictures and the like. DiPierro is also inventing a new online presence for McGonagle—one that, at times, seems inauthentic.

• The Inaccessible Convention. Like many other events, the Dems’ convention talked a good game about being ADA accessible, but when it came right down to using common sense to help people whose mobility is somewhat compromised, it failed miserably.

No need for the details but suffice to say a wheelchair-enabled person was not allowed to use the chair to go approximately 100 feet to get to his vehicle, get some medication and come right back. (The “rule” is the chairs can’t leave the facility.) After much discussion with tone-deaf convention people, a walking attempt resulted in a fall. Nice going state Democratic Party.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren with her nominator, 17-year old Cyara Lambert of Everett, the youngest delegate at the convention.
• Cyara, the future. The feel-good story of the convention belongs to the its youngest delegate. Cyara Lambert of Everett. Cyara is 17 but will turn 18—and therefore eligible to vote—before the November general election. Cyara was among those nominating Sen. Elizabeth Warren for reelection. Cyara has a led an effort at Everett High School to register young people who are 18 or will be 18 before the next election to vote. It seems she schooled even the top educators at EHS in these rules for voter eligibility. If young people like Cyara are our future, we’re in fantastic shape!

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