Q. Can Bay State Democrats 'drain' their hearts of bitterness?

For some Democrats, after a long and bruising primary, uniting behind Sen. Barack Obama as the presumptive party nominee won't be easy. As Clinton's concession speech played on televisions sets last Saturday afternoon, thousands of Democrats gathered for an off-year Democratic State Convention in Lowell.

A top supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton, City Council President Maureen Feeney, said the party has its work cut out when it comes to the healing process.

"There needs to be a lot of reconciliation," said Feeney, standing on Saturday on the floor of the Tsongas Arena surrounded by fellow Democrats.

Could a slot as vice president help? Perhaps, Feeney said, wearing a button that read "One of 17.5 million for Hillary," in reference to Clinton's popular vote total during the primaries.

City Councillor Sam Yoon, who announced his support of Obama last December, said uniting the party must be a top priority in order to beat Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"The fact is Barack Obama has been talking about transcending divisions and partisanship," Yoon said. "He is the nominee."

Yoon also pointed to the Democratic Party looking to create a 50-state voter registration drive.

"That's the spirit we need in Dorchester," he said. "This is just as much about the values of the Democratic party as it is about electing the next president."

As for the question of handing the vice presidency to the former First Lady, Yoon said Clinton would be a "strong addition" to the ticket and one way to unite the fractured party. "Eighteen million people thought she'd be a great leader for the country," he said.

Gov. Deval Patrick made the same call for unity in his speech, and asked Democratic delegates to shake the hand of someone sitting near them who supported a different candidate than the one nominated.

"The nominee will lead us, but it is up to us to drain our hearts of whatever bitterness remains," said Patrick, who plans on stopping next Thursday in Chicago for a "governors unity event," drawing together governors who were on opposite sides in the primary.

Even as Clinton was preparing to announce defeat, her campaign set up a table at the convention and distributed Hillary '08 buttons. Kate Chang, a Clinton campaign staffer manning the convention table, said she hoped to work now to elect a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.

The split may have also figured into Sen. John Kerry's gaining of a primary opponent. While Kerry received the party's endorsement, he failed to beat back a bid by Gloucester defense attorney Ed O'Reilly to get on the September primary ballot.

State Sen. Jack Hart, a Kerry supporter, said some party activists may be angry with the senator, who is running for a fifth term, for endorsing Obama over Clinton.

"This is an important time in Massachusetts, with Sen. Kennedy ill," he said, referring to the senior senator, who is recovering from surgery for a malignant brain tumor. "It's important for us to put our best face forward. We need seasoned people at this time advocating on behalf of the people of Massachusetts."

But some said Kerry wasn't attentive to the needs of their districts.

Joseph Chaisson, a veteran Dorchester neighborhood activist, said Kerry's office kept him waiting in 1987 for three hours when he and others attempted to shut down a local club operating after hours illegally.

"I'm still waiting for the apology," Chaisson said.

Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.

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