Lowell is a beautiful city and I am always happy to know that we are heading to a Convention there.
There are great restaurants we enjoy, it’s walk-able, the historic flavor and the preservation of the buildings envelop you, welcome you;the arena where the Convention takes place is named for our late Senator, Paul Tsongas, who is the person largely responsible for historic preservation that one sees.
I highly recommend always going to a Convention the evening before the actual gavel calls delegates to order, because that’s where the chance to see old friends, meet new activists, the ability to meet candidates and form impressions is easiest rather than the crush of the morning as cars and delegates stream into Lowell’s Tsongas Arena to pick up ‘I’ll pay for my credentials now’ or ‘not received in time’ credentials.
This year was even more key to get there early, as delegates from all over the Commonwealth got a chance to compare ‘notes’ on the recent campaign that elected Ed Markey as US Senator: I found out rather quickly that our dissatisfied experiences and impressions were not so unique to the South Shore – it’s nice to be validated from beyond the South Shore. I was assured by a high ranking strategist that any campaign they, ‘the high ranking strategist’, worked on in the future would not resemble or interpret ’grassroots’ the way the Markey Campaign did. I promised to not name this person, but this person was not alone: State Committee people who I spoke to by a margin of 10 to 1 echoed the same impression: they had a bad experience and in ’14 we have to do better.
The candidates were out in force, and it all seemed to start at Steve Grossman’s event – even candidates for other offices used Steve Grossman’s event at Athenian Corner on Markey St to ‘kick off’ Friday night pre-Convention: besides Steve Grossman, a man who knows how to make everyone feel welcome at his event( he is a great host) [ he and my husband talked about the Little League team that Grossman's dad's company sponsored in Hull:"Mass Envelope"~my husband grew up in Hull and it was evident that was a nice memory for Steve Grossman who recalled he himself was a 'batboy' in 1953]; I saw candidate for Lt. Gov Steve Kerrigan stride through – and that was the correct optical version – stride, as quickly as a full room would allow ‘striding; Kerrigan did not glad hand or speak to anyone except for very few people within my view that I later found out all happened to be State Committee people. Saw Congressman John Tierney make the rounds as well at Athenian Corner and he worked the room on the way to the patio( our vantage point were great seats at the bar); Lt. Governor candidate Mike Lake came in next and he couldn’t have offered a more different approach than his ‘opponent’ as he greeted as many delegates as he could, took questions, passed out buttons, chatted – his progress through the restaurant was slow and deliberate.
The Grossman volunteers had set up a table to collect email addresses and volunteer cards so there was bottleneck at the door because it was situated so closely to the door. Soon I saw a primary opponent to Congressman Tierney, Marisa DeFranco, enter Athenian Corner and I wondered if I would see the 2 pass each other – but there was a ‘back way’ to leave the Grossman event,via the patio. so I never did witness that.
Our group decided to go to the next party delegates had been invited to via the Call to Convention Paper: Joe Avellone for Governor’s event, which was literally next to Steve Grossman’s party. Again, a table was set up to collect names and emails. Information about Joe Avellone was put on all tables; food was plentiful and good according to someone who was part of our walking group. We met Congressman Tierney as we were entering and he was exiting and we passed on greetings from a person we serve with on the HDTC who had gone to law school with Congressman Tierney. He sent his greetings back and was very cordial.
As we left the Avellone event we up to the candidate to introduce ourselves and to thank him for holding the Party. He was very cordial and gracious to us, told us that he would be coming to the South Shore soon and we left with a good impression of him. His staff was outside and asked us whether we enjoyed ourselves and if we had had a chance to meet ‘Joe’ , we said yes and we told them he was very gracious and that we were looking forward to hearing him the next day at the Convention. Sort of a unique way to get feedback for the candidate which I had never experienced before. Simple and effective when you think about it.
Kept travelling down Market St on the way to the Mayor’s Bash at “The Blue Shamrock”: a great live band was playing and I witnessed delegates hitting the dance floor - conversations became difficult because of the band; the music was good, but talking and sharing impressions are more important on these occasions so we headed to the ‘official’ Welcoming site: UMASS Lowell Inn And Conference Center .This was where Lt Gov candidate Steve Kerrigan was holding his pre-Convention Party – we saw him as we entered but he was engaged in a conversation so we headed over to the buffet table for an assortment of cheeses, crudites and a mixed cold cut and olive platter. While we seated ourselves we met up with Democrats from the Cape and Islands and had a great conversation with them getting their perspective on who had entered the race – their State Senator, Dan Wolf, as well as the state of where we stand going forward politically in the Commonwealth were some of the topics we touched upon. That was a lengthy conversation.
We never managed to meet Steve Kerrigan who was still involved in a long conversation of his own; it was getting ‘late’ for us :around 9:45 pm and we knew we had to be up early to catch the breakfasts at the Tsongas Arena which kicked off at 8am ~ we knew we were not going to be out much longer. We wandered over to the ‘official’ kick-off room in the facility and we saw the ‘newest’ entrant to the Governor’s race for ’14: State Senator Dan Wolf. We saw as well a person who sits on the HDTC with us, and he is usually a paid staffer for candidates: he spoke glowingly of Dan Wolf and it was evident he wants to work on his campaign. Another conversation ensued about the imperfections of the Markey campaign, and I was happy to realize not all staffers thought everything was rosy and that there were many ways to improve outreach.
We were introduced to Dan Wolf and he spoke with an intensity about why he was running but he kept saying:’he didn’t want to give away too much of his speech from tomorrow’;he impressed all of our group.
That concluded our evening and we headed back to our hotel with the alarm set for 6am.
We got to the Tsongas Arena in time for the doors opening – made our way to the Don Berwick for Governor breakfast( recognizing that we had not met him the evening before, feeling that in ‘fairness’ we should make a point of attending);he came in, was immediately engaged in a conversation with a delegate which lasted a while then he was pulled away by his staff to enter by a different door to give a short speech which we could not hear a word of because no microphone was available and the room’s acoustics were horrible. We left knowing we would have to wait for his ‘official speech’.
We circled the Arena and signed a number of issue oriented sign up sheets concerning these issues among many: Safe Staffing standards for Nurses, advocating for Sex Education in schools, allowing early educators the right to Unionize, promoting an organization that encourages women Democratic candidates to run for office called”Emerge”, signed up for email notices from the Progressive Democrats of MA and if I have left off any, forgive me.
We decided to try to get into the Dan Wolf for Governor breakfast, and got in just as he was finishing up his remarks using a microphone so all could hear despite being a length of a room away from him( details, details, they make a difference!);his staff gave away toy balsa airplanes which had stickers on the wings proclaiming Dan Wolf for Governor in ’14 – which immediately gets the recipient to recall that Wolf is the Founder of Cape Air. Very clever.
The Convention was gaveled to order on time and speeches were made by the local Lowell officials -like the Mayor who told us – he had come back to being a Democrat – ok?!. Then we heard from Constitutional officers like Governor Deval Patrick, Atty General Martha Coakley( who had a HUGE sign contingent in front of the Tsongas Arena as delegates arrived), and Steve Grossman who couldn’t give a rousing speech of why he was running for Governor, but he highlighted the issues he may run upon: paid family leave and raising the minimum wage. Ed Markey gave a rousing speech thanking activists as well.
We took attendance of delegates – not many of our local South Shore State Reps were in attendance except for Jim Cantwell and Josh Cutler. Absent: Mayor Sue Kay, State Reps Garrett Bradley, Rhonda Nyman, Jamie Murphy, Bruce Ayers, Tacky Chan, Ron Mariano, State Senator Therese Murray – …etc – more ABSENT than those that were present.
We voted on the platform – very slight modifications were made( amended);Resolutions concerning Climate Change and restoring the important parts of the Voting Act were passed overwhelmingly.
Then the speeches by the candidates started: Don Berwick kicked it off with a biographical video, and then he spoke with a moral tone/imperative that clearly moved delegates – I was one of many that stood after his speech to applaud.
Dan Wolf then took the stage with music blaring – it was an odd juxtaposition to the moral, almost humble note that Berwick had struck. Dan Wolf enlarged upon his announcement video and used literary lyrical visions of a pilot’s perspective – eye on the horizon, carrying the passengers as we embark on a journey. He highlighted his business acumen and his progressive values.
Joe Avellone was the final candidate to speak: he did it all without seeming to use notes or a teleprompter. He clearly is smart – they all are – and he focused on bringing ‘Big Business’ to the state.
We adjourned and every delegate I spoke to OR overheard as we left the Arena were left with the realization that this will be no easy task choosing among these highly qualified candidates – they all impressed us.
There were ‘breakout sessions’ planned to go over issues, techniques, and campaign methods of interest to activists – the descriptions were so good that people had a hard time choosing and then once decided, a hard time finding chairs to sit in because so many delegates stayed to participate in these sessions.
An ‘after party’ was held – but I had been invited to a post Convention Blogger Party which we headed to – it was great re-connecting with fellow bloggers, the food was terrific – wish we could have stayed longer but the South Shore beckoned and my husband had another commitment coming up on Sunday.
We left there convinced that activists will have to have longer ‘meet and greets’ with these candidates to settle upon the one they will ultimately support – but all that can wait until September – enjoy the rest of the summer with all the summer activities the season offers if the weather cooperates.