Updated at 8:38 p.m. June 4
Massachusetts Democrats chose their standard-bearer for the 2022 election cycle at the party’s convention in Worcester Saturday, endorsing current attorney general Maura Healey for governor while also keeping state senator Sonia Chang-Díaz’s gubernatorial hopes alive.
Healey, who’s been considered the favorite to win the nomination for months, was backed by 71 percent of the Democratic delegates. Chang-Díaz, who previously expressed confidence that she would reach the fifteen-percent threshold required to make September’s primary ballot, got there easily, winning 29 percent of the vote.
The party also endorsed Tanisha Sullivan, the president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, for secretary of state; Chris Dempsey, a former assistant secretary of transportation in the Patrick Administration, for auditor; and Quentin Palfrey, who was the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018 and briefly served in the Biden Administration, for attorney general.
The endorsed candidates will still have to work to win the nomination. Sullivan will face incumbent Bill Galvin, who is seeking an eighth term. Dempsey, who won 53 percent of the vote, will face state Senator Diana DiZoglio. And Palfrey will face former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell and labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll won the election for lieutenant governor with 41 percent. She will face two other contenders for LG, state Representative Tami Gouveia and state Senator Eric Lesser. Two LG hopefuls, state Senator Adam Hinds and businessman-turned-academic Bret Bero, did not make the ballot.
In her convention speech, Healey touted litigation she brought against the National Rifle Association, the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, and the Trump Administration as AG. She also offered a preview of how she’ll campaign against the Republican nominee if she wins the primary by swiping at the Massachusetts GOP, which recently held its convention in Springfield.
“Look at that convention two weeks ago,” Healey said. “So much hatred and vitriol. They’re going to take us backwards on racial justice, immigration, gun violence, reproductive rights. climate change and more.”
Delegate Lynn Bishop of Arlington — who wore a Pride face mask and plenty of Healey paraphernalia — said she first met Healey in 2013, during her initial campaign for attorney general.
“I just thought she was the real thing,” Bishop said. “She’s honest, she’s dedicated, she’s energetic.”
Bishop also cited Healey’s role in the fight for same-sex marriage. Before becoming attorney general, as the head of then-AG Martha Coakley’s civil-rights division, Healey played a key role in litigation that helped overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2012.
“She made it possible for me and my wife to get married,” Bishop said, her voice breaking.
“Anybody who’s saying she’s Baker Lite is crazy,” Bishop added, referring to Democrats who accuse Healey of excessively emulating Governor Charlie Baker’s moderate approach to politics.
“She would be so strong for people who have been marginalized. She’s out there for gays and lesbians; she’s out there for people of color; she’s out there for working parents; she’s out there for people who are low-wage workers.”
Chang-Díaz touted her progressive bona fides in her speech, saying she’s the only Democratic candidate for governor who supports Medicare for All, debt-free public higher education, and fare-free public transit – all of which she called “core tenets” of the party’s platform.
“Put courage over politics, starting right now,” Chang-Díaz urged the delegates. “Start the next chapter of courage in this party. Find the next set of heroes who will make the difference between accepting the status quo and winning justice for those who lack it.”
Russ Weiss-Irwin, a delegate from Dorchester, said he was supporting Chang-Díaz as a matter of principle, even though he’s skeptical about her chances of actually becoming governor.
“I don’t think she’s going to win,” he said. “I hope so, but I’m not crazy — I’ve seen the polling and fundraising. And I don’t even think Maura Healey is bad. I think she’s progressive in most ways, [although I] have some qualms.
However, he said, Chang-Díaz “is clearly staking out a strong position fighting for the things that people really deserve, and which I actually think are very popular ideas.”
As the candidates for secretary of state made their pitches, Sullivan electrified the crowd inside Worcester’s DCU Center with a speech warning that American democracy faces “existential threats” and accusing Galvin, a seven-term incumbent, of failing to lead on voting rights..
“This office must serve as a beacon for the rest of our country,” Sullivan said. “This is not a job that gets done by filming [public-service announcements]. … This office should be the soul and hold the promise of our democracy, serving as a reminder to each generation that our calling is to manifest the hope, the dreams and the beliefs of our ancestors.
“Here in Massachusetts, we are not leading,” she added. “We are 50 years behind, a half a century behind on some basic voting rights. Maine adopted same-day voter registration in 1973.”
Galvin, who left the convention before the results in his race were announced, defended his record in his remarks, citing his embrace of COVID-era voting innovations.
“I did it. We did it,” Galvin said. “We had vote-by-mail opportunities without any restrictions. We had extended early voting. We made sure people got the opportunity to vote with an application that was delivered to their home.
“COVID gave us the opportunity, but I took the opportunity to prove… it worked, and it did,” Galvin continued. “We had a record turnout throughout our state in all three events that we had. I want to make those [changes] permanent.”
In 2018, Galvin lost the convention’s endorsement to challenger Josh Zakim but easily won the primary election. But Sullivan supporter Robbie Simon, a delegate from Framingham, said he’s confident Sullivan can oust Galvin from the role he’s held for so long.
“The national mood around voting has changed a lot since when Zakim ran, and I think her life story and her experience are going to speak to people,” Simon said. “”I think she has ideas about where to take the Secretary of State’s office that are really innovative.”
Sullivan would be the first woman of color elected statewide in Massachusetts if she wins her primary and general elections. So would former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who is vying with former Biden Administration lawyer Quentin Palfrey and labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan to replace Healey as AG.
Charity Grace Mofsen, a delegate from Nantucket, said she’s heartened by the party’s diverse array of candidates in the 2022 cycle.
“As a woman of color, I’m really, really excited to see other women, and particularly other women of color, in this race,” she said. “They’re all so incredibly talented. I think we would all be really fortunate to have any or all of them serve in these roles.”
The statewide candidates’ speeches were preceded by remarks from several other big-name Democrats, many of whom devoted the brunt of their time to criticizing the Republican Party.
Congressman Jim McGovern said that “Republican extremism is a threat to our democracy,” while Senator Ed Markey suggested that the acronym “GOP” actually stands for “Guns Over People” and “Gullible On Putin.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren hit closer to home by calling out former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, the Republican gubernatorial frontrunner who unsuccessfully challenged Warren in the 2018 U.S. Senate race. She called Diehl a “Donald Trump wannabe” who “has jumped on the extremist bandwagon, throwing red meat to his base by proclaiming the efforts to protect Roe here and in Massachusetts are extreme and radical.”
A small group of Republican counter-protesters greeted the Democratic delegates as they arrived at the DCU Center Saturday. The Mass GOP took notice of the proceedings as well, saying in a press release that by requiring attendees to attest they’d been vaccinated against COVID, the Democrats were engaged in “the 21st century’s version of segregation.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Tami Gouveia’s first name and said, erroneously, that Kim Driscoll had not received the party’s official endorsement for lieutenant governor.