QUINCY—Massachusetts Democrats turned out today to start sorting through a host of candidates for statewide office, meeting in caucuses that will shape the outcome of the June party convention.
With Governor Deval Patrick planning to step down in January, Democratic activists are fervently hoping to retain the Corner Office for their party, but none of the five candidates vying for the seat has captured the imagination of the grassroots that propelled Patrick to victory in 2006.
The five Democrats running for the governorship are Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman, former federal health care official Donald Berwick, biopharmaceutical executive Joseph Avellone, and former homeland security official and Globe columnist Juliette Kayyem.
Democrats are also lining up behind candidates for three other statewide offices that will be contested in the September primary: lieutenant governor, attorney general, and treasurer.
Leading Democrats said early indications of today’s turnout showed enthusiasm waning from previous years, when candidates like Patrick and now-Senator Elizabeth Warren had excited the party’s progressive base.
“There are five candidates, and I think a lot of the activists don’t want to be on the record. I think that first vote at the convention is going to be compelling,” one longtime Democratic activist said today.
In Quincy, though, activists turned out in force. In the gymnasium of the Kennedy Center in the Quantum section, activists greeted a string of statewide candidates who came to curry favor in the reliably Democratic city.
House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat, said turnout in his city was the heaviest since the 1982 primary duel between former governors Edward King and Michael Dukakis, calling it “a bit of a hornet’s nest.”
“It’s viewed as an open seat,” said Mariano. “People want to come out of the convention strong.”