LOWELL—Massachusetts Democrats are gathered in Lowell today, flush with a string of recent election victories and getting a first look at the party’s developing 2014 field.
“You had two weekends off,” party chairman John Walsh said in welcoming delegates to the party’s off-year convention in the Tsongas Center at UMass, referring to Edward J. Markey’s special Senate election triumph last month.
Treasurer Steven Grossman, after a former convention address that avoided a direct announcement of his candidacy, hastened to quell any doubt about his intentions.
“I am running for governor of Massachusetts,” Grossman said. “The people of this Commonwealth want leadership that leaves no one behind.”
Grossman said he was confident that voters would be drawn to his résumé of small business ownership, politics, and philanthropy.
During his speech, Grossman said that if a paid family leave policy had not become law by January 2015, he would file it as his first legislative measure. Later, he called that assertion a “pretty Sherman-esque” statement of his candidacy.
In bright orange T-shirts, Grossman supporters are among the most visible at the Tsongas Center.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, considering a run for the corner office and delivering perhaps the most closely watched speech, was more taciturn.
“I know there’s a lot of people making announcements today. I have one, too: Tomorrow is my 60th birthday,” said Coakley, drawing laughs.
The three Democrats who have declared for governor – Joe Avellone, Donald Berwick, and Dan Wolf – delivered relatively staid addresses that keyed on progressive themes in vogue with the left-leaning convention attendees.
Berwick, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration, touted his health care work and billed himself as “an improver and an executive” championing progressive causes.
In a five-minute speech that managed to name the late US Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Governor Deval Patrick, and President Obama, Berwick said, “Our civic souls are at stake. Nothing less. Yet, there are those who would have us shun the moral test – I have heard them; I have met them; I have fought them. We must stop them.”
Wolf, a state senator from Harwich and co-founder of Cape Air, struck an equally aspirational tone, borrowing from Patrick’s exhortation at last year’s Democratic National Convention for Democrats to “grow a backbone.”
“Let’s not just grow a backbone, let’s use it, and build this economy from the middle out,” said Wolf.
Avellone, a biopharmaceutical executive and former COO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, homed in on reducing health care costs, which he said could be accomplished by offering collaborative care through larger organizations of physicians.
“It’s not so much how to do it. It’s who will have the political will to do it,” Avellone said.
At least three other potential candidates for governor worked the crowd. Representative Michael E. Capuano, former Obama administration homeland security official and Globe columnist Juliette Kayyem, and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone all circulated through the arena, along with a crowd of candidates for congressional and lower statewide office.