By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
WORCESTER -- Treasurer Steven Grossman won the Democratic Party's endorsement on Saturday in this year's race for governor, comfortably outdistancing a field of rivals that was chopped from five to three as the Newton Democrat now hopes to use his victory to build momentum and close a polling gap that shows Martha Coakley in the lead.
Coakley, the state's two-term attorney general, finished second with 23 percent of the voting delegates to Grossman's 35 percent. Dr. Donald Berwick, a pediatrician and former Medicare and Medicaid director, finished a strong third, galvanizing the more progressive elements of the Democratic activist base and earning 22 percent of the vote.
"This is going to change the game. The kind of embrace we're seeing for the progressive agenda that we're bringing is real, it's real. It's going to be the story of this race," Berwick said.
Juliette Kayyem, a former state and federal homeland security official, and Joe Avellone, a biopharmaceutical executive, both fell short of the necessary 15 percent to qualify for the ballot. Kayyem has challenged the party establishment in recent months, and urged delegates to not "settle for the next in line." Kayyem's failure to qualify with 12 percent leaves Coakley as the only woman in the race.
At a convention rife with uncertainty all day long, Grossman's victory was almost never in doubt.
"What's important is to come out of this with momentum.
Coakley said she was "really happy" with the outcome, and not surprised by Berwick's strength. "We had a goal coming in that we wanted to get our 15 percent. Get on the ballot. We've had a great day today . . . We're moving on to the primary."
Coakley said Gov. Patrick will be missed, but told delegates, "Maybe it's time to replace those shoes with some high heels." Coakley declined to proceed to a second ballot, withdrawing her name from contention for the party's endorsement rather than risk a lopsided head-to-head loss to Grossman for the party's endorsement. Many party delegates had left the DCU Center when that decision was announced.
The next phase of the campaign will start Sunday morning when at least a few of the candidates, including Coakley and Grossman, plan to attend the Bunker Hill breakfast and parade in Charlestown.
Grossman anchored his remarks in a pledge to fight for both economic and social justice.
"Massachusetts needs another progressive governor, ready to lead, with vision and values, heart and hope, courage and compassion. I will be that governor," Grossman said in his speech to delegates before a sea of supporters wearing bright orange and blue, his campaign's colors. Grossman also became a grandfather again on Saturday after his son Ben and his wife had a son, Jacob.
The treasurer said he would divest public pension funds from fossil fuels and cut in on one of Berwick's signature issues - Medicaid for all - when he said," I'll lead the conversation across the state on single payer insurance."
Berwick responded, saying, "There's a big difference between leading a conversation and making something happen."
Coakley used her speech to delegates before the voting began to directly confront the lingering doubts about her candidacy and ability to win a toughly contested general election, most likely against Republican Charlie Baker.
Acknowledging that her 2010 Senate loss to former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown was "painful for a lot of people in this room," Coakley said she made the decision to "get back in the ring" and went on to successfully fight the Defense of Marriage Act and unlawful home foreclosures. She also sought to reassure those Democrats about her work ethic, promising that no one in the race would "travel more miles, knock on more doorS, shake more hands" than her.
"It's not a question of winning or losing. Everyone wins if you get on the ballot," Coakley said about her second place finish in the voting.
One Republican operative told the News Service the GOP would actually prefer to face Coakley in the general election, feeling the match-up favors presumptive GOP nominee Charlie Baker.
Berwick told the story of a young 15-year-old Roxbury boy named Isaiah who overcame his fight with leukemia only to die living on the streets as a victim of poverty.
"I see his face every day. And every day I ask myself the same question: Today, would Isaiah die again, or live? I want to be your Governor so that today Isaiah would live," Berwick said.
Berwick said earlier in the day he felt his agenda, which includes transitioning to a single-payer health care system, will have appeal beyond the floor of the convention where many delegates may be more liberal than the majority independent electorate.
"I am not scared of Charlie Baker. He lost once before and make no mistake on Nov. 4 he will lose again. The only thing that scares me is timidity," Berwick said.
Kayyem, a former state and federal national security advisor, touted her leadership credentials and progressive values, and said she would aggressively fight climate change. She also directly challenged Republicans and delegates.
"While the campaign fell short of our 15 percent goal, Juliette got people talking about criminal justice reform, climate change, and strengthening our state's infrastructure. Even though Juliette won't be going to the Corner Office, she'll keep fighting to level the playing field so that every person has a fair chance," Kayyem said in a statement.
According to a Suffolk University poll earlier this month, 42 percent of voters think the 15 percent rule is unfair.
Former Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said he was not bothered by the divisions that defined the convention. "Democrats have a real problem. We have a surplus of talent, which is exactly the opposite problem that the other guys have," Walsh said. He said, "We have the challenge of figuring which one's good and which one's better and which one's best, but that's the kind of problem we celebrate."
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declined to exert the type of political influence his predecessor was known to wield, releasing his Boston delegates to vote for whomever they wished in the gubernatorial contest, though he did ask them to vote for Warren Tolman for attorney general and Tolman edged rival Maura Healey who also made a strong showing at the convention.
"People seem to be all over the place on it," Walsh said at start of the day. He added, "If you can get over this obstacle, it's anyone's race."
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who has been attending conventions since 2002 and introduced Berwick to the convention, said, "This is the most undecided convention I've ever been to."
Asked whether Grossman can get a bounce out of the convention, Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh, of the Dewey Square Group, said, "He can if he can marshal the delegates here and make them part of his campaign and get a press bump." Grossman said he was pleased to be leaving Worcester with an "army" of activists ready to go to work for his campaign.
As for Coakley, Marsh said she's "still the clear frontrunner, no doubt about that," but added that her campaign's future success will depend on how well she can explain her loss at the convention.
"Any time you're having to explain yourself, you're not winning," Marsh said. "What to watch is how well she can convince people that even though she didn't win she's still the best candidate to take on Charlie Baker or else it could reinforce some of the fears about her."