Democrats to feature candidates for governor, new delegates at convention

About 5,000 delegates to attend convention in Worcester

BOSTON (State House News Service) – One thousand first-time delegates will participate in the Massachusetts Democratic State Convention on Saturday, a number chairman Gus Bickford says is indicative of a “terrific amount of energy” surrounding the party after the election of President Donald Trump.

The party will welcome a total 5,000 delegates to the DCU Center in Worcester, revise its platform for the first time since 2013 and hear from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is running for a second term in 2018, and Sen. Ed Markey at a time when Democrats are out of power in Congress, but hoping to gain seats in the 2018 elections.

The convention will see nearly double the number of delegates who typically participate. According to a party spokeswoman, the convention typically hosts 2,000 to 3,000 delegates.

This year’s proposed platform includes an array of positions that have not yet prevailed in a state Legislature firmly under the control of Democrats.

There’s a push for gender and race equity with regards to employment, pay and health care. The platform advocates for a $15 minimum wage, up from $11, and free education for all students from preschool to college. It says Massachusetts should become a sanctuary state and provide a “fair and timely” pathway to citizenship for all immigrants — documented and undocumented — as well as drivers’ licenses for all of-age citizens regardless of immigration status.

The platform will address veterans’ issues for the first time, advocating for stronger action on issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, Agent Orange and Burn Pits, gender-sensitive health care and employment opportunities, and homelessness among veterans.

“We’re trying to mobilize our party and create a framework for that energy,” said Bickford, who was elected party chairman last November. “The platform is more progressive than 2013 . . . We learned we need to be stronger about the values we hold dear.”

The 2013 convention was the last non-election year gathering before Republican Gov. Charlie Baker edged Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2014, ending the eight-year hold on the Corner Office under former Gov. Deval Patrick. Last year, President Donald Trump wrested the nation’s highest office from Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern is set to speak at the convention, as well as Attorney General Maura Healey, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Secretary of State William Galvin. Former state budget chief Jay Gonzalez, environmentalist Robert Massie and Newton Mayor Setti Warren, all declared candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year, are also expected to address delegates.

DeLeo has formed a tight bond with Baker over the past two years, sharing positions with him on taxes and other issues. Perhaps the most powerful Democrat on Beacon Hill, the Winthrop Democrat recently declined to say he would endorse the party’s nominee for governor in 2018.

Planks of the party platform will be presented by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman and Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins. The committee revises its platform every four years after an election.

The statewide group Our Revolution Massachusetts, inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, will bring 700 progressive delegates to Worcester. Former Sen. Dan Wolf, Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Reps. Paul Mark and Mike Connolly, all former 2016 Sanders delegates, are members of the organization. Eldridge called the platform “the most progressive Mass Democratic Party platform ever,” according to a statement released by Our Revolution Massachusetts.

Bickford said the party will set its sights on winning the corner office back from Baker, who holds major fundraising advantages over potential opponents.

“We need somebody with vision, somebody with a backbone, somebody who will stand up for voters in Massachusetts,” Bickford said. “I think that message will be heard loud and clear.”

Bickford said Trump does not “represent American values,” and believes the uptick in Democratic Party participation can be attributed to Trump’s election.

The state Republican Party does not hold similar conventions during non-election years. Asked about the practice, a MassGOP spokesman pointed to party bylaws that he said “instruct that our conventions be held during gubernatorial election years.”

It costs $75 to be a delegate at the state’s Democratic convention. Seniors and students pay $50, and fee waivers were made available to eligible delegates. The budget for this year’s Democratic state convention is nearly $174,000.

[Michael Norton contributed reporting]

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