A Look Back: Massachusetts Democratic Convention of 1966

There was a lot of speculation in certain media circles this week about possible bullying and arm-twisting of delegates at last week’s Massachusetts Democratic convention. Amid my recent researching pursuits, I came across a reminder of another Mass Dems convention that shows what old-fashioned politicking is all about. Media reports from June 9 – 12, 1966 noted that supporters of Massachusetts Attorney General Edward McCormack (nephew to US Speaker of the House John McCormack) were claiming that he had 1,000 delegates ready to vote for his nomination for Governor against State Senate President Maurice Donahue and former Kennedy presidential aide Kenny O’Donnell. Former Governor Endicott “Chub” Peabody was seen as a slight favorite over feisty Boston Mayor John Collins for the nomination for US Senate. 1800 delegates were ready to convene and deliberate at the War Memorial Auditorium in Boston on a Friday evening and all day Saturday. Prior to the opening, US Senator Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) and Senator Ted Kennedy were scheduled as the main speakers at a Democratic delegate and activist banquet. Gerard Doherty – another Kennedy ally – was the Mass Democratic Party Chair but Mass House Speaker John F. X. Davoran was the designated convention chair. On Friday night the uncontested races – Kevin White as Secretary of State , Robert Q. Crane as Treasurer  and Thaddeus Buczko as Auditor as well as floor fights on delegate credentials, rules and the party platform were scheduled along with speeches, debate and voting. The convention was not gaveled in adjournment until the wee hours –  Saturday at 3:00AM. Delegates were back at it at 9:00AM Saturday – after challenges to senate district votes, re-polling of individual delegates – finally the drama-filled convention endorsed! Chub Peabody carried 26 of the state senate districts over Collins for the US Senate. A bitter John Collins vowed to carry his case to the 1,200,000 voter-Democrats in the fall primary. McCormack was endorsed over Donahue (17 senate district were challenged); Joe Maguire of Worcester (a bit of deja vu) got the nod for Lt. Governor over John Dever (Woburn) and Joe McGlynn (Medford);  the current Lt. Governor Frank Bellotti overwhelmingly overcame former Governor Foster Furcolo, a young State Rep Mike Dukakis and others  for the AG endorsement. For a local connection – Atty. William Geary of Lowell nominated Furcolo while Mary Regan of Lowell seconded the Bellotti nomination. Middlesex County was an important element in all the endorsements.

Lowell Sun State House reporter Loring Swaim, Jr. speculated how the convention endorsed nominees could be swept aside in a state-wide primary. There was a reported tiff between Maurice Donahue and Ted Kennedy with Donahue apparently irked by a Kennedy request to step aside for McCormack (how ironic!). Neither would offer a comment on the “hassle.” The lengthy, hectic two-day convention ended with hard feelings and some fences never to be mended!

In the fall primary McCormack defeated rival Kenneth O’Donnell 55% (343,381) to 45% (279,51) only to be defeated handily by John Vope in November – 63% (1,277,358) to 37% (752,720). This was the first election after the gubernatorial term was extended to four years.

Also in the fall primary “Chub” Peabody defeated rival Mayor John Collins 50.3% to 41.8%. Peabody was defeated in November by AG Ed Brooke 60.6% (1,213,473) to 38.7% (774,761). Brooke  served until defeated in 1978 by Congressman Paul E. Tsongas of Lowell.

Elliott Richardson defeated Bellotti for AG. Kevin White was re-elected Secretary of State but resigned in late 1967 when he was elected Mayor of Boston. Robert Q. Crane was re-elected Treasurer and served until 1991. Thaddeus Buczko was relected Auditor and served until 1981.

In those days convention delegates were selected from the ward and town committee members… now of course delegates aree lected in a caucus with any Democrat (certfied as such by December of the previous year) eligible to run and vote. Who remembers those days in the 1960s?

FYI – over 3500 delegates participated in the 2912 Massachuetts Democratic Convention!

One Response to A Look Back: Massachusetts Democratic Convention of 1966

  1. Jon H says:

    Was at that 66 convention. Jack McGlynn not Joe ran for Lt Gov. Never knew why they nominated Maguire. Also Bellotti was not current Lt Gov but former. Jon H