By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Concerned that some of his supporters might be under a misapprehension that there will be two nominating votes at the June convention, which he said has veered to the left over the years, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Avellone has reached out to delegates to remind them of the rules.
"I'm being aggressive because I want to make sure I get on the ballot," said Avellone, who sent a letter to his supporters highlighting the need to win 15 percent of the convention vote on the first ballot. He said, "I'm at a better place when they know, now - because everybody has received this letter - that they need to choose, and they're only going to have one shot at it, and of course I would like that to be me."
The former Wellesley selectman and surgeon is facing a field that includes the better known and better funded candidacies of Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steven Grossman along with Don Berwick and Juliette Kayyem. Grossman, Berwick and Kayyem have all staked out decidedly liberal positions on policies, and Kayyem and Grossman have challenged frontrunner Coakley on some of her stances, on immigration and sexual education, from a liberal perspective.
"I think there's a bigger risk of excluding legitimate candidates when you have five legitimate candidates," said Avellone, who labels himself a "moderate" in the race. "I think our party is blessed. We have a lot of good people in it, but right now the convention is really dominated by a very liberal wing of the party. I think that's happened over a couple of cycles."
In a Friday post to the liberal website Blue Mass Group, Avellone said the rules had changed during his campaign, but in a phone interview Monday he said he was aware they have not changed since 2004.
"I'm not looking for pity. I'm looking for a fair shot. When I entered this race I knew that I faced an uphill battle, but the rules changed midway through the game, and the hill only got bigger," Avellone wrote, in a post that said the party "changed the convention rules in August."
Massachusetts Democratic Party Executive Director Matthew Fenlon told the News Service the rules giving candidates only the first vote to receive their 15 percent were adopted in 2004. The next statewide race was held in 2006, when Deval Patrick won the convention, the nomination and the governor's race.
"What has become reality since I got in is there are five legitimate candidates, and there was an attempt to restore the two ballots last September that failed, so they reasserted that there was one," Avellone told the News Service. He said, "I know what happened . . . They considered going to two ballots because there were five legitimate candidates and they decided not to do that."
The process lends itself to candidates meeting with and wooing the party faithful who will seek one of the slots from their town or city neighborhood to attend the Worcester convention.
"I went from talking to voters all across the Commonwealth to 5,000 delegates to the Party's Convention this summer," wrote Avellone, who was the first candidate to enter the race, filing a campaign finance report Jan. 9, 2013.
Avellone said he is confident that he will be able to win the 15 percent delegate vote required to continue in the primary, and said he prefers an older convention system where he said candidates could win their 15 percent on either the first or second ballot.
The results of the Republican State Convention, which gave Charlie Baker the gubernatorial nomination, could be subject to change as the lesser known Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher has challenged the party's count in court.
Avellone said he supports the threshold of 15 percent that candidates for statewide office need to receive from party delegates at the convention, but he believes there should be two ballots to allow for greater ballot access. When the rule change first went into effect, in 2006, there were three Democratic candidates for governor, Avellone pointed out, as opposed to the five today - a number that intensifies the competition for delegates' support.
Avellone pointed out that many people were elected as delegates without any allegiance to a particular candidate, and he said the party could solve the logistical problems multiple votes might present through the use of technology.