Democrats Thinking Massachusetts Governor’s Race Within Reach — Weekly Recap of Beacon Hill

Printed from:

By Matt Murphy

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has the money, the name recognition, the approval ratings, and the backing of elected officials from both parties — a perfect recipe for re-election.

So what does Democratic nominee for governor Jay Gonzalez have? A little of everything Baker has, plus maybe some Dementum.

The surge of progressive voters in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville that swept Ayanna Pressley into Congress on Tuesday night, washed away Ways and Means chairman Jeff Sanchez, and wreaked havoc on turnout modeling in the Third Congressional District could be just what the Democrats needed to convince voters and donors that Baker is vulnerable.

Add to that the fact that U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will be sitting at the top of the ballot in November opposite pro-Trump Republican state Representative Geoff Diehl, who prevailed in his primary this week, and Democrats are starting to say there’s a chance.

“If that goes around the country. That wave is coming. I guarantee it’ll happen in November. That night there will be blowouts all over the country if people feel the same way and I think they do,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday morning.

Gonzalez handily defeated Somerville activist Bob Massie on Tuesday to secure the Democratic nomination for governor and his place atop a ticket that will include former Obama administration official Quentin Palfrey.

“Incumbency and money and special interest and pundits don’t decide elections. People do. People decide elections,” Gonzalez said at a “Unity” event the morning after the primaries, before then making an unsuccessful play to get Baker to agree to a side deal on campaign spending limits.


Gonzalez’s challenge now will be to tap into that energy and enthusiasm on the left and convince voters who were excited by candidates like Pressley that he can be a progressive leader for them as well.

Of course, Pressley stole all the headlines on Tuesday when she didn’t just defeat 10-term incumbent U.S. Representative Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), she beat him convincingly. Pressley’s slogan “Change Can’t Wait” proved prescient as she is now poised to become the state’s first black representative to the U.S. House and possibly the next national obsession after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In hindsight, Pressley’s victory was exactly what lawmakers had in mind when they redrew the Congressional map in 2010 to make the Seventh District a majority-minority district. Many just didn’t think minority representation would come so soon, and at the expense of a progressive incumbent like Capuano.

“Clearly the district wanted a lot of changes,” Capuano said in a brusk concession speech. “Apparently, the district is very upset with lots of things that are going on. I don’t blame them. I’m just as upset as they are. But so be it, this is the way life goes.”

Some of those same district voters swept Sanchez and Majority Whip Byron Rushing out of the House in what Speaker Robert DeLeo antagonist state Representative Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan) deemed a “clear rebuke” to DeLeo’s leadership style. DeLeo dismissed that interpretation, arguing that his consensus-seeking leadership style, which left some progressives wanting, worked for 13 of the 16 Democrats who faced primary challenges.

“It was a good night for the Democratic House and I’m proud of our results,” DeLeo said.

The narrative of a change election, however, didn’t necessarily hold together outside of the Greater Boston area. While turnout seemed to be up everywhere there was a significant race of interest, establishment-types also had a decent night.

Tuesday’s top vote-getter was none other than Bill Galvin, the 24-year-incumbent secretary of state who dominated upstart Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim.

Galvin prevailed in the primary with almost 67 percent of the vote, and won 348 of the state’s 351 cities and towns, dropping only Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. And he made sure people knew that with a post-election Tweet that was downright Trumpian. “What a Bill Galvin victory looks like,” the Brighton poll Tweeted, along with a map shaded almost entirely dark blue, marking the territory he won.

Zakim did not show up at the Democratic unity event in Dorchester on Wednesday morning, which was supposed to be a coming together of all candidates for the good of the party.

Capuano wasn’t there either, but Bob Massie and Jimmy Tingle (the comedian who lost the Democratic lieutenant governor primary race) did show up, though they didn’t speak.

Galvin may have had an excuse as he was busy dealing with the unresolved contest in the Third Congressional District where #LorifromLowell Trahan topped Andover’s Dan Koh by a mere 52 votes of the more than 85,000 ballots cast.

Galvin ordered the ballots impounded and Koh gathered the signatures he needed by Friday to trigger a recount that could drag the primary out just a little longer as Republican Rick Green awaits the winner.

Some campaigns in the crowded Third District field had been anticipating and modeling their get-out-the-vote efforts on a smaller turnout of closer to 65,000. The last time that seat was open in 2007, 55,805 votes were cast in the special Democratic primary.

Koh’s potential loss to Trahan would be the icing on a bitter dessert for Mayor Walsh, who climbed out from the under the rubble of Tuesday returns to lead the cheerleading Wednesday morning for Pressley, Gonzalez, et alia.

The mayor, who has elevated his profile in recent months by traveling to Ohio and Iowa and backing candidates beyond the borders of his city, rejected the analysis that he was the ancillary loser in the primaries even if it became hard to ignore how the losses piled up.

Walsh didn’t just endorse Capuano, his former chief of staff Koh, Sanchez, and Zakim. He also mobilized his political machine to help try to drag them across the finish line, but couldn’t quite get them there.

“There’s no big losers in this,” Walsh said the morning after, suggesting the media puts too much emphasis on endorsements. “You pick sides and then whatever happens at the end of the day, you come together.”

STORY OF THE WEEK: Can’t wait, won’t wait. Voters, particularly those in Boston area, show hunger for new faces in their politics.

SONG OF THE WEEK: It’s been a long, a long time coming