Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
LOWELL The six Democrats who so far have declared they want to unseat US Senator Scott Brown next year blasted the Republican and mocked his service in "the people's seat" as they rallied delegates today at their party's annual convention.
"Scott Brown didn't make a mark in the Massachusetts Legislature and he isn't leaving any footprints in the United States Senate,'' said City Year co-founder Alan Khazei. ""We need a senator who leads."
Newton Mayor Setti Warren accused Brown of voting against the interests of Massachusetts men, women, and children.
"This is our senator, who even questions the science of global climate change," Warren said. "Is that someone who represents the values of our state?"
The crowd of roughly 3,000 delegates gathered at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell replied with a robust "no."
Also speaking were Somerville activist Bob Massie, state Representative Tom Conroy of Wayland, Salem immigration lawyer Marisa DeFranco, and Newton engineer Herb Robinson.
Almost everyone harkened back to the rallying cry of Brown's 2010 special election campaign, when he beat Democrats by declaring that the seat of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy wasn't his or his party's, but "the people's seat."
Massie told the delegates: "When Teddy Kennedy went behind closed doors with lawmakers and lobbyists, he always fought for us. When Scott Brown goes behind closed doors with lawmakers and lobbyists and the Tea Party and Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers, and all the shadowy figures who put him in office, he's fighting for them."
Conroy, one of the most recent entrants to the race, devoted much of his speech to outlining his biography. But he, too, targeted Brown.
"Anyone here happy with Ted Kennedy's replacement?" he said, to another chorus of "no." "So, I ask you, do you want to win back that seat for the people of Massachusetts?"
DeFranco, the lone woman seeking the nomination, trumpeted that fact in a populist speech.
"Women," she said, pausing for effect. "We are 51 percent of the population and we will not be denied equality any longer."
Robinson, an admitted political unknown, directed the crowd toward his website to learn more about him.
He described himself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, adding: "That way, I can say 'no' to big government without saying 'goodbye' to humanity."
In non-election years such as this, the party convention is aimed at energizing the base, taking care of perfunctory party matters, and hearing from candidates at the beginning of their campaigns.
Treasurer Steve Grossman said he would hold a meeting of the Massachusetts School Building Authority in Westfield next week, and use the session to ensure the state provides financial support to rebuild all damaged schools.
And Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray preceded a fiery speech to the delegates with a solemn recognition: "Today we grieve for those who lost loved ones, we pledge to help rebuild damaged homes and businesses, and we are most grateful for the dedication of our first-responders, our Massachusetts National Guard, our fellow citizens who are reaching out neighbor-to-neighbor to help."
Governor Deval Patrick recounted the stories he was told and the scenes he saw as he toured the tornado zone. He said the damage was worse than anything he saw last year during a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The governor also threw out some of the political red meat that is a hallmark of such conventions, accusing Republicans of not believing much of what they say on the stump on in Congress.
"We Democrats need to be better than that. But that means more than having a strong argument for all the things we are against. We need to be clear about what it is we are for," he said.
"Stop waiting for the pundits to tell us who are next U.S. senator is going to be," the governor added."In politics, we shape our own future."
Yet the would-be Senate nominees were the day's marquee speakers.
At least three other potential candidates, US Representative Michael Capuano, former gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidate Warren Tolman, and former financial services executive Robert Pozen were also seen shaking hands in Tsongas Center, named for the late US Senator Paul Tsongas, a Democrat.
"We want to reelect President Obama, first and foremost, and send Scott Brown and his pickup truck and barn coat back to Wrentham," said Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh.
More broadly, he said, "What we really want to do is reconfirm the strategy that worked for us in November: a series of face-to-face, one-on-one conversations. The way that works is by starting early."
State Republicans criticized the gathering even before it began, accusing the Democrats of trying to distract attention from the ongoing federal corruption trial of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a Boston Democrat, and recent courts cases involving former Democratic senators Dianne Wilkerson and James Marzilli.
"There is a code of silence in the Democrat machine. They think if they don't talk about it, it will go away. Well, it's not going away," said a statement from Nate Little, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
Walsh replied: "That's belied by the fact that we do this every year at this time. This is our mission."
And one of Brown's top political advisers used Twitter to deliver the incumbent's understated retort.
"Scott Brown is spending his morning delivering emergency supplies to victims of the tornadoes that devastated western Mass.," wrote Eric Fehrnstrom.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.