Elizabeth Warren and the 95.77%

The monsoon-like weather that washed across the Commonwealth didn’t keep 3,554 delegates from attending the 2012 Democratic State Convention in Springfield today. The biggest story will have to be the mammoth vote for Elizabeth Warren – she got 95.77% of the delegates – and the concurrent failure of Marisa DeFranco to get the votes of at least 15% of the delegates – she got 4% – which means DeFranco will not appear on the ballot in the Democratic primary. Because there will be so much spin of this result, I thought it might be helpful to put it in some context.

A longtime rule of the Massachusetts Democratic Party is that for a candidate to appear on the ballot in the primary election, that candidate must, in addition to obtaining the required number of certified nomination signatures (in the case of US Senate that’s 10,000), receive the votes of 15% of the delegates at the party nominating convention. The rule has been tweaked occasionally and most candidates make that hurdle – Congressman Mike Capuano was the last one in my memory felled by this rule back in 1992 when he ran for Secretary of State and failed to reach the 15% threshold.

Upon arriving at the convention, delegates were seated by state senate district. We in the First Middlesex District (Lowell, Tyngsborough, Westford, Dunstable, Pepperell, and Groton) had great seats just to the side of the stage. State Senator Eileen Donoghue and State Representative Jim Arciero of Westford sat among the delegates throughout the convention. I believe they were the only elected officials (besides me as Register of Deeds) from the district who were present in Springfield today (with apologies to any town selectmen or school committee members I overlooked – definitely no one from Lowell though).

The first procedural step was the call of the roll. This was ably conducted by Curtis LeMay who served as “teller” for the district. Using a booklet of all district delegates provided by the state party, Curtis marked all who were present and, at the end of the roll call window, physically carried that booklet to a big table in the front of the room. There, party officials tallied the attendance in the First Middlesex and in the other 39 senate districts, concluding finally that there were 3,544 delegates present. It was this number that would be used to calculate the 15% needed for ballot access.

After speeches from Elizabeth Warren and Marisa DeFranco, Curtis procured from the state party table a similar booklet but this one was for tallying the votes for the US Senate endorsement. Here, Curtis stood to the front of our section and boomed out each delegate’s name, one-by-one. As your name was called, you yelled out either “Warren” or “DeFranco” (In the First Middlesex, Warren’s name was shouted 54 times and DeFranco’s none). As the individual delegates cast this voice vote, Curtis would record the vote in his booklet under the watchful eyes of several assistants and monitors from both of the campaigns. Once he had obtained and recorded the votes of everyone present, Curtis then carried the book to the state party table where it was tabulated along with its 39 companions.

When the results were finally announced at about 3 pm, Warren had received 95.77% of the votes and was declared the “endorsed candidate” of the convention. Left unsaid was DeFranco’s failure to reach the 15% threshold which means her spirited candidacy for the US Senate came to an end today in Springfield.

Most everyone was stunned by the scale of Warren’s victory. Everyone seemed to expect DeFranco to eke out at least 15% of the delegates but she didn’t even come close. Before the inevitable conspiracy theories take root, let me just say that everything was done out in the open with zero opportunity for manipulation. As I describe above, the votes were cast by voice in the presence of everyone with nothing but perceived peer pressure influencing any one delegate. In our delegation, there was no arm twisting or lobbying; there didn’t need to be but I don’t think there would have even if there had been DeFranco supporters amongst us. And from what I could learn of vote tallies in districts adjacent on the seating plan in Sringfield or to our district back here at home, the 54-0 vote in the First Middlesex was not unusual. The delegate response to the respective candidate speeches also corroborated the imbalance of support. When Warren spoke, hundreds of her signs were held aloft by delegates throughout the arena and her remarks were met with enthusiastic cheers. When DeFranco spoke, eight supporters held up eleven signs in the middle aisle to the front of the podium; her speech received polite applause.

And Warren in her speech, both in substance and in delivery, rewarded delegates for their commitment to her. If anyone had any doubts about Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy as they entered the Mass Mutual Center this morning, those doubts had been erased by the time they departed late this afternoon.

8 Responses to Elizabeth Warren and the 95.77%

  1. Marie says:

    Excellent description of the process and proceedings! In my Second Essex Middlesex District (Andover, Dracut, Lawrence, Tewksbury) 44 votes cast for E;izabeth Warren and 3 votes for Marisa DeFranco (cast by Tewksbury delegates). There was terrifc organization on the part of the Warren team… from checking the delegates in as they arrived in 2EM – although the official tally was mine as the District Teller – to providing much sought-after T-shirts, signs and buttons. The delegate mood was enthusiastic, determined and then elated with the final result. State Senator Barrry Finegold was with us thoughout the convention as was former State Rep and current candidate Barbara L’Italien and for a while State Rep Marcos Devers. Tewksbury Selectman and Chair David Gay was present as an elected delegate. Tired but satisfied with the results. I offer kudos for a well-run convention. Lowell in 2013!

  2. Christopher says:

    In 2002 Sarah Cannon Holden failed to get her 15% to make the ballot for Lt. Gov.

    Niki Tsongas was with us for awhile. Members of Congress are ex officio members of the State Committee and thus also automatic delegates. She must have checked in since Curtis called her name during the Senate vote. I’m pretty sure she was not there to respond at that point, but she publicly endorsed Warren fairly early.

    Democratic State Reps and Senators (but I’m pretty sure not county officers, right Dick?) are automatic delegates. I did not see any other legislators either – none of the three Lowell Reps.; Tyngsboro is represented by Colleen Garry from Dracut in 2EM, but she did not come; Dunstable, Groton, and Pepperell are in a district represented by a Republican.

  3. Joe80s says:

    Ah yes Dick… The courage of those delegates that battled through “monsoon-like” conditions to sit in an air conditioned arena while stiffs like myself worked outside all day.
    There is sad pattern developing for the Dems in this state regarding the candidates they put forth. Coakley ran a horrible campaign but she still should have smoked Brown in the special election. Elizabeth Warren is a hollow elitist carpetbagger that is as far from center a candidate we have ever seen. Independents will see this and once again support a Republican in Massachusetts. Once again a weak candidate for the Dems… And the the delegates march like sheep behind “the chosen one.” Sad.

  4. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:

    I’m with Elizabeth Warren

    George B. Murphy Jr., my father, taught me a lesson when I was about six years old.


    Being six years old I know everything
    Is filled with fiction—everything.
    Whenever there is work to be done
    He rolls up his sleeves, plunks his elbow
    On the chipped porcelain table
    Produces a nickel, places it between his
    Nose-picking finger, crust-cleaning thumb.
    He begins rubbing his hairy forearm.
    I stare at a bulging-blue artery as he
    Whispers abracadabra while he frictions
    The nickel up and down his magical skin.
    Now and then the nickel falls, clinks, chimes
    In a tintinnabulation circle on the table.

    He reaches down, his gray eyes twinkle,
    As he peeks into my doubting eyes.
    It seems to take a minute or an hour
    Until he drops the nickel, picks it up,
    Repeats the slow friction movement,
    Then opens his fingers and thumb.
    Nothing in either hand. Where did it go?
    He leans, plunks his elbows on the table,
    Places his chin on lined hands and grins.
    Slowly, he reaches out and touches my ear,
    Digs out a warm, brilliant nickel
    And deposits it in my hand:
    Don’t take any wooden nickels, son.

    –Daniel Patrick Murphy

  5. DickH says:

    Well Joe80s, if you were in fact working outside all day yesterday that would explain your miserable demeanor because the weather truly was terrible. And as for the outcome of the Senate race, let’s talk again in November.

  6. Jim O'Loughlin says:

    Thanks Dick for the description of the convention. Finally its time for the nonsense to end and the debate over the real issues that affect the people of the Commonwealth and the country. I am sure that many people would rather the debate be about Elizabeth Warren’s heritage rather than the assault on the middle class, the abandoning of college students and their families, the agenda of restricting woman’s rights, and a continuing of stall tactics that hold back the countries ability to move out of the devastating position we have found ourselves in. Time to hold people responsible for their votes.

  7. Greg Page says:

    Here’s where I give Marisa DeFranco some credit:

    When all the party hacks took their marching orders to scurry away, she stayed on. She got the 10,000 valid, certified signatures (harder than it might sound). She made it to the convention, and took a resounding defeat…but then again as you pointed out, Mike Capuano once got whacked statewide, too…and he lived to fight another day.

    But let’s say DeFranco never gets involved in public life ever again. Besides now being the answer to a political bar room trivia question, she might have extra stature in her role as an immigration lawyer, or might just have cool stories to tell friends and relatives about the time she ran for Senate.

    Either way, she got up in the batter’s box, made contact, ran towards first and was ultimately thrown out before reaching the bag…I give her credit for that [insert the Teddy Roosevelt quote about the man in the arena].