Nashoba Valley Democrats meeting to select convention delegates

Ben Downing, a Democrat running for governor, met with members of the Shirley Democratic Town Committee last week.
Ben Downing, a Democrat running for governor, met with members of the Shirley Democratic Town Committee last week.

SHIRLEY – With the Massachusetts State Democratic convention coming up this fall, local town committees throughout the Nashoba region have been holding caucuses to choose their delegates.

Last week, about a dozen people showed up – via Zoom and in person – for Shirley’s DTC caucus, held at the Town Offices. Four delegates were elected to represent Shirley’s DTC at the convention, set for September 25 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Chosen were: Elma Achtam, Sanaa Abidar and alternate Betty Keddy. Elizabeth Johnson has applied to serve as an add-on delegate and Shirley DTC Chairman Dina Samfield will serve an ex-officio delegate, according to a recent press release.

Other caucus attendees included Ben Downing, a former western Massachusetts senator who is running for governor. He told the group he’s running for the state’s top job “to build a fairer, stronger Massachusetts.”

In a later interview, Samfield put that aspiration into practical perspective. Her takeaway was that the candidate was suggesting “we can be bolder…more transformative,” at the state level, she said, offering a markedly different slant on state issues than the Republican governor he hopes to unseat.

Issues on his to-do list include tax reform and achieving “transparency” in state government.

With the election still two years off, Samfield said the upcoming state convention would be a “platform” convention, offering an opportunity to spotlight and address that issue, and others.

She explained how it works. Over the summer, Democratic voters, state-wide, will caucus, locally, to select delegates to represent their towns, or wards. The process also includes hearings to help the Platform Committee develop a draft party platform for convention delegates to consider.

By definition, a platform is a floor, a flat surface to stand on, a stage. Or, as in this instance, a mission statement that says “This is what we are all about,” setting a course for the party, going forward.

Up for discussion at the recent caucus: affordable housing, transportation, climate change,income inequality and striking a balance between conservation land and acreage available for developers to build affordable housing in communities like Shirley.

Which brings up a point. Income guidelines state agencies such as DHCD have set for affordable housing in Shirley are based on the metro Boston area, which places the town in the same category as higher-income communities such as Groton and Harvard. That bar may be set too high, Samfield said, pricing some Shirley families out of the market.

Recognizing this as a “complex issue,” Downing suggested a more “regional approach,” she said.

Samfield said she gets that and has tentative plans to organize regional meetings with DTC counterparts in surrounding communities.

The Nashoba Valley caucus season is well underway. Several area towns have met already, while others soon will. Here is a partial list.

The Townsend Democratic Committee plans to hold its caucus on July 26 at 7 pm, via Zoom.

According to a recent Townsend DTC press release, the caucus is open to all registered and pre-registered Democrats in town, and any pre-registered Democrat age 16 or over by June 15, 2021 may participate or run as a delegate or alternate. Also, “youth, minorities, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ individuals” may apply as “add-on delegates,” either at the caucus or on line at The application deadline is Aug. 6.

For more information – including the Zoom link for the caucus – contact DTC Chairman Joseph “Josh” Shaine at or call him at 978-597-0977.

The Pepperell DTC held its caucus on June 15. Chairman Tom McGrath said the early date was set so that members could be free to enjoy the summer. Delegates are Tom McGrath, Marcia Zaniboni, Dian Temple and Ken English. There are no alternates.

Groton Democrats caucused on July 3 and elected Deb Busser, Michelle Collette and Zachary Gavel as delegates; John Sopka as alternate. Ex-officio delegates are Bob Fleischer and Jennifer Mieth, who is also the DTC chairman and a State Democratic Committee delegate.

The Harvard DTC held its caucus June 21, according to chairman Dennis Bradley. Shannon Molloy, Nate Finch, Bob Coit and Kelene Blumstein are the elected delegates.

The Ayer DTC held its annual caucus on Saturday, July 26 via Zoom, and elected Denise Perrault and Kate Hamm as delegates to the convention.