Opening Night of Democratic State Convention

The 2014 Democratic State Convention began last night at the DCU Center in Worcester. The main business of the evening was the nomination by acclamation of three statewide candidates who are unopposed in the September 9, Democratic Primary. They are Secretary of State William Galvin, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, and US Senator Ed Markey (even though Markey was just elected to the Senate last June, that was a special election to fill out the remainder of John Kerry’s term so Markey must now run for his own full six year term). Each of these candidates spoke from the podium to those in attendance.

One speaker who generated plenty of cheers was the state’s senior US Senator, Elizabeth Warren, who began by thanking those in attendance for helping to create “one of the most extensive grassroots organizations in Massachusetts history” for her 2012 campaign against Scott Brown. She continued “We knew what was at stake; we had a vision of the America we wanted; and we knew we had to fight for it every day.” She listed the components of that vision: that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement; that no one should work fulltime and still live in poverty (which requires increasing minimum wage); the elderly should be able to retire with dignity (which requires strengthening social security); we believe in science and want to leave a livable earth; kids should go to college without incurring crushing debt; that workers should be able to bargain collectively; that equality means equality in the workplace and for families; and finally, that the people with the most money shouldn’t be able to buy elections – calling for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision.

Warren said we face a tough challenge in Washington, citing last week’s results on her bill that would refinance to lower rates $40 million in student debt. She said every Democrat, every Independent, and three Republicans supported the bill giving it 58 votes in the Senate, two fewer than were needed to break the Republican filibuster and so the bill never even was debated. This, she said, shows that the great majority of Republicans in the Senate want “government for the rich and powerful.” She said “we can keep quiet about it or we can fight back.” She closed by saying she feels blessed to be representing Massachusetts in the Senate because Massachusetts has led the nation in equality, education, health care, and green and bio technology.

The surprise speaker of the evening was former Lt Governor Tim Murray who introduced Governor Deval Patrick. Murray, the former mayor of Worcester who resigned from the Lt Gov office last year to lead the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, began by thanking Governor Patrick for allowing Murray to be such an active Lt Governor. He said he first met Deval Patrick eight years ago when the then little known gubernatorial candidate came to Worcester City Hall to meet then mayor Murray. Patrick, Murray said, “listened and learned” which is something he did across the state during his campaign and has continued to do through his years as governor. This ability to listen and learn has allowed the governor to connect with people in all walks of life, to set a vision for the future and to lead us towards that future. He closed by saying we’re not ready to say goodbye to Deval Patrick and he hopes that one day soon Daval will take his listening and learning skills “to the cornfields of Iowa.”

Governor Patrick next took the stage, thanking his “mischievous” former Lt Governor (by which I assume the “Iowa” remark was not cleared in advance). Patrick reminisced that his first visit to a state convention was ten years ago in Lowell. He said “I was a bundle of nerves and your warm welcome embraced me.” He said that in the intervening ten years, “Massachusetts is back in the leadership business” citing gains in student achievement, veterans services, venture funding and many others. He said 2013 saw the biggest job gains in Massachusetts in 15 years and it was done by getting business and labor and activists to work together. He said “we have made the Commonwealth more just” through CORI reforms, elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, closing achievement gaps in education, and marriage equality, of course. He said there is much more to do, especially in the areas of child care, mental health and economic justice. He closed by saying Democrats are willing to work with anyone who has a good idea but urging everyone to “stand up for what we believe.” We don’t need to “tear each other up; we should instead stress our values.” He urged everyone to “tell our stories at the grassroots; if we want the government we deserve, we must be involved – it’s all about community.” In conclusion, Governor Patrick said “we are a stronger community than we were ten years ago but we can be stronger.”

The convention continues today with delegate voting for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer and Attorney General. Check back tomorrow for a full report and check my Twitter feed (@DickHowe) for updates from the convention.