Democrats relish a sense of shifting momentum
Party faithful show optimism at convention
WORCESTER — Maybe it was Governor Deval Patrick’s call to “finish what we started.’’ Or the lyrics to “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,’’ a theme song Patrick coopted for the occasion.
But Democrats gathering at yesterday’s state party convention, still smarting from having lost a US Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown in January, were looking for an affirmation that the momentum has shifted, and many felt as if they got it, from the speeches, the songs, the promises, and the newfound energy among the 3,920 delegates who filled the DCU Center.
“It’s better than it was Jan. 19,’’ the day of Brown’s victory, said James DiTullio, a delegate from Boston and an ex officio member of the state committee.
“Jan. 19 was a tough day to be a Democrat. I think that people weren’t sure what their fate was going to be this year, and this convention helped a lot.’’
Over two days, the delegates heard motivating speeches from leaders such as Senate President Therese Murray and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, who set the stage for Patrick’s rousing address yesterday.
“The momentum has switched; you can feel it,’’ said Jack O’Halloran of Waltham, as he sat against a wall and watched the convention unfold. “You’re seeing an atmosphere that is more upbeat because people have this opportunity to talk to one another and it’s a wake-up call.’’
With just two endorsement contests up for grabs, yesterday’s convention stood in contrast to the gathering four years ago, when Patrick battled two challengers for the delegate nod.
This year, it served more as a rallying call for Democrats looking for an answer to Republican excitement and a Tea Party movement that has grown in the state, propelled by Brown’s surprising triumph over Democrat Martha Coakley for the US Senate.
S. Brown Pulliam of Bedford said that the relative lack of drama yesterday helped create a sense of a common goal.
“This time, everyone’s really together, working toward the future and trying to get us out of this mess,’’ he said.
Helen Corbett of Middleton called it an affirmation of the party.
But one delegate, Theodore Pollack of Saugus, said he thought the day lacked the fire that the party saw four years ago, when Patrick handily won the convention endorsement, partly because it is now nominating an incumbent in tough economic times.
“The times have kind of beat the crap out of what he was all about,’’ Pollack said. “Sure, he had to make bad choices, but you don’t make a lot of friends when you have to make bad choices.’’
Despite the overall sense of optimism, the election season still has a long way to go, and many delegates said yesterday that the political volatility this year means Democrats cannot expect an easy ride, a lesson the Coakley-Brown race hammered home.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead,’’ said GerryAnne Brown of Ipswich. “You cannot take anything for granted, and that’s what we learned in the last election.
“We’re all on the same side, so we’re all going to leave united. We have reason to be optimistic.’’
O’Halloran added: “Democrats have got to get out and work in this state. It’s no longer a given, and Democrats are finally realizing you’ve got to work to get the vote.’’
It was the first convention for Sarah Dobkin of Boston, who came to support a candidate for auditor and left with a newfound sense of excitement for the party. But she, too, said that enthusiasm is not enough this year.
“I think people are excited, and I’m happy to see it,’’ she said. “But there’s more work to do. There’s always more work to do.’’
Ray Pegram, a delegate from Dorchester, said that the public’s mind has been on national issues such as the economy, the oil spill in the Gulf, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that yesterday’s gathering was a way to “focus on Massachusetts.’’
“I didn’t come with any expectations, but I’m excited about being here,’’ he said.
For Bill George, a retired police chief from Holliston, the day was more educational than expected. A longtime independent, he attended as a guest of the convention, there in support of his wife, who was a delegate. He came uncommitted to a party, but by mid-day, he seemed impressed.
“I like the message that they want to finish what they started,’’ he said. “I’m not happy with all the decisions they’ve made, but I think they’re trying to do the right thing, which is more than I can say for the 16 years before that.’’
Milton J. Valencia can be reached email@example.com.