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March 09, 2005

Party hacks make a power grab

AP is reporting that the Massachusetts Democratic Party is considering a rule change that would make it harder for candidates for statewide office to get on the primary ballot.  Under current party rules, which are bad enough, a candidate must receive the votes of 15% of the delegates to the state convention.  The rule change would require that a candidate reach the 15% threshold on the first ballot.

This strikes me as a terrible idea.  The convention is a party insider's paradise - most ordinary voters (and I include myself in that category) don't have a clue what it is, where it is, when it is, what happens there, or - critically - who goes to it.  So the 15% rule is a way of ensuring that candidates on the ballot have the support of a "critical mass" of party insiders.  Tightening that rule will only make it harder for "outsider" candidates to compete, and will thereby shut out more voices who want to shake the party out of its "business as usual" mindset.

Secretary of State (and possible gubernatorial candidate) Bill Galvin, to his credit, is speaking out against this rule change, aptly describing it as a "power grab."  Let's hear from AG and all-but-declared Gov candidate Tom Reilly too - are you for an open process, Tom, or do you want the hacks to hand you the nomination without a contest?

You can contact the party here and urge them not to adopt this change.  Tell them you want an open primary process that doesn't depend on lining up insider support before the convention.

Bad hacks!  Bad!

UPDATE (3/10/05): The party has unanimously adopted these lousy changes (big surprise).  Not only will it now be tougher to satisfy the 15% rule, but the number of delegates to the convention will be substantially reduced, with the bulk of the cut coming out of delegates elected at local caucuses - i.e., the people on the ground doing the real work, the local activists, the non-party-insiders (elected officials and well-connected hackocrats will still be going). 

Posted by David at 02:59 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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I was all set to be indifferent to the proposed primary changes that were to be discussed tonight at the Democratic State Committee meeting. Blue Mass Group calls it a power grab by party hacks. NoHo Missives wants Democratic Party Chair Phil Johnsto... [Read More]

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For the record, Reilly has already spoken out against moving the primary to Spring. I assume he would also be against the other changes, however I have yet to see any on the specific comments from him.

My knee-jerk reaction to this is similar to yours, but I've got to take a little time and think about it.

Posted by: sco | Mar 9, 2005 3:43:41 PM

Don't take too much time - according to the AP article, the meeting is tonight.

Posted by: David | Mar 9, 2005 3:50:41 PM

Right, but in all likelihood, these changes are going to go through tonight regardless of what I think about them unless I feel strongly enough to trudge out to South Boston and shout at people.

Also, who is an insider and who is an outsider? I'm going to the Democratic Platform convention in Lowell. I think your fellow blogger Charlie is too. Does that make us insiders? Are we party hacks automatically for showing up? Why shouldn't a candidate have to demonstrate support before getting on the ballot? If Steve Grossman was kept off the primary ballot in '02, would that have made a lick of difference to anyone other than Steve Grossman?

I'm actually more upset about them reducing the number of delegates to the nominating convention. Although, the good thing about that in this context is that 15% on the first ballot is actually fewer people under the new rules than the old ones. You could argue that this may actually make it easier for people to get on the ballot (though it does automatically limit the field to no more than six).

Posted by: sco | Mar 9, 2005 4:21:27 PM

I'll be at the convention too.

Reilly will have to denounce this too -- there is no reason not to -- if they're trying to screw a progressive, it won't work -- we have a better chance of going to the convention than most -- and with PDM, WM4PC, DFM, etc. organizing and educating progressives -- our preferred candidate is definitely going to get 15% at the convention. Reich had no problem getting delegates.

Not sure, what, if anything this would accomplish. It's not going to keep anyone off -- not realistically expecting more than 4 candidates anyway (not an open seat like last time).

Posted by: Noho-missives | Mar 9, 2005 4:50:52 PM

sco: I think it's great that folks like you, Charley, and others are infiltrating the hackocracy by being named delegates and going to the convention. But rest assured, you will be part of a small minority.

And as for whether people should demonstrate support before being on the ballot, of course they should. But how about, say, gathering signatures? If I can get a bazillion signatures saying yes, we want you on the ballot, why should I have to have the hack seal of approval before the voters get a chance to say that I'm their guy (or not, as the case may be)?

Noho: maybe I am mis-remembering, but wasn't there some question as to whether Reich would get 15%? And wasn't there some horse-trading after the first ballot? I may be way off - please correct me if so.

Posted by: David | Mar 9, 2005 5:06:28 PM

Wasn't there -- I'm a newcomer to Mass -- 2002 was a first for a lot of activists -- now they are getting organized and trained. Also, there was Tolman to compete with.

I'm not worried about the 15% -- it's the fewer delegates I don't like. There are a bunch of automatics (office holders) -- those are more likely to be insiders.

Phil Johnston is an idiot -- the big thing this accomplishes is turning off all the newcomer activists from the 2004 election off to the whole process.

Posted by: Noho-missives | Mar 9, 2005 5:19:46 PM

According to the Globe Article Reich was 66 delegates short in 2002 and Galvin loaned him some. With a smaller convention, if Reich had the same number of delegates, he would have made it in on the first ballot.

Posted by: sco | Mar 9, 2005 6:38:20 PM

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