June 15, 2022
On a sunny Saturday earlier this month, Massachusetts Democrats gathered in Worcester to pencil in picks for the Sept. 6 primary ballot, including their candidates for governor, auditor, and secretary of the commonwealth.
But the place to be to get an up-close glimpse of the candidates may not have been among the thousands inside Worcester’s DCU Center but days earlier with a few hundred people inside a single-story brick building in Dorchester.
On the Thursday night before the Sat., June 3, convention, delegates mingled with statewide candidates and their aides inside the Guild, home to a nonprofit located several blocks from Franklin Park. Gus Bickford, the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s chair, was also in attendance. And others joined the proceedings online.
At least 100 of the delegates inside the Guild were uncommitted. According to Darryl Smith, chair of the Ward 14 Democratic Committee and a key organizer of the event, that group of 100 or so was the largest bloc of uncommitted minority delegates in the entire state.
Smith, whose ward includes Dorchester and Mattapan running along the Blue Hill Avenue corridor, said those delegates inside the Guild played a role in several candidates getting on the primary ballot and nabbing the party’s endorsement.
Candidates looking to simply make the Sept. 6 ballot needed the votes of 15 percent of delegates. Additionally, to get the party’s official endorsement, candidates needed a majority of delegate votes, a rule that caused some runoffs.
The delegates at the Guild, operating under the name “Communities of Color,” are politically savvy soldiers who have put boots on the ground in countless local campaigns over nearly 25 years.
Some had cut their teeth working for the late Mayor Thomas Menino in the 1990s, according to Smith. The uncommitted delegates planned to vote as a bloc, whether they were from Boston, Brockton, Randolph, Stoughton or Somerville.
After the evening reception, the bloc released its slate: Maura Healey for governor, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll for lieutenant governor, former City Councillor Andrea Campbell for attorney general, public transportation advocate Chris Dempsey for auditor, and former Boston NAACP president Tanisha Sullivan for secretary of state.
“We were instrumental in putting Andrea over the top on the first ballot,” Smith said. Because no candidate for attorney general received a majority, a runoff determined who would get the party endorsement. In that balloting, Quentin Palfrey, the 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor, picked up the official endorsement with 54 percent. Campbell and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan will join him on the primary ballot.
Brookline’s Dempsey, who is competing in the primary for the auditor post with Methuen state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, called Smith after the “Communities of Color” event, saying that Smith and the delegates were “the reason he won” a spot on the ballot and the party endorsement with 52.7 percent of the people inside the DCU Center, to DiZoglio’s 47.3 percent.
Dempsey credited Smith and state Rep. Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat, with helping to make the delegates an “absolutely essential group” at the convention in Worcester.
Dempsey knew many of its members through his work on No Boston Olympics, the successful effort to block the Games from coming to the city in 2024, as well as his time as a transportation official in the Deval Patrick administration and as head of the public transit advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts.
The meeting at the Guild helped strengthen old relationships and build new ones, according to Dempsey. “It was open, it was fair, it was a real conversation and a real back and forth. That was essential in our victory on Saturday.”
At the event, Dempsey focused on his biography, noting that his parents met in 1970 as teachers at the Martin Luther King Elementary School just a mile away from the Guild building. “People appreciated that I have a real connection to the community and I owe it to Ward 14 that my parents met,” he said. “That was always a starting point.”
For Tanisha Sullivan, who is running against longtime incumbent Bill Galvin for the post of secretary of state, the convention was a blowout. She received 62.4 percent and the party endorsement in Worcester, while Galvin, a Brighton Democrat in the job since 1995, received 37.6 percent.
“I think the support of the COC really helped us to solidify our support,” Sullivan told the Reporter.
Sullivan is running on a platform of increasing voter participation and transparency in state government, as well as lower registration fees for small businesses.
Galvin, for his part, told the State House News Service that he has lost the race for the party endorsement at past conventions and gone on to win reelection. He lost the convention to then-Councillor Josh Zakim in 2018 on his way to winning a seventh four-year term in office.
“With the shift in the electoral college that’s occurred and with changes that the Republicans have relentlessly brought about in other states, we are up against it,” Galvin said at the convention. “I am now the senior Democratic election official in the United States and I intend to use that role to make sure that we’re able to make sure that citizens throughout our country have the opportunity to vote.”
Sullivan said the difference between the June convention and 2018 is her win was achieved by a supermajority. “In 2022, our message is speaking to the moment, being a proactive secretary of state who has a track record of standing on the front lines, fighting for our democracy,” she said.
She also said her win was the first time the Massachusetts Democratic Party had endorsed a woman of color for statewide office. “That’s something that’s a sign of progress,” she said. “I don’t want that to get lost. That is a bright spot for us.”
As for what’s next for the Communities of Color delegates, Smith said his group is looking to help their candidates secure wins on Sept. 6. The winners of the primary face off in November against the winners of the Republican primary, also on Sept. 6.
“We’re going to get on the ground and send that message that our candidates are going to be able to compete in a major way, especially in the communities of color, and we’re looking forward to helping to do that,” Smith said.