LOWELL — Paid leave for workers helping care for sick family members. A more aggressive stance against climate change, including pressure on President Obama to block a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Mocking farewells to a federal law blocking gay marriage that the Supreme Court struck down last month.
The Massachusetts Democratic Party, meeting Saturday in Lowell at an off-year convention, gave an unabashed embrace to liberalism and watched as its gubernatorial hopefuls jockeyed to outpace one another in a race to the left.
Treasurer Steven Grossman spent much of his speech discussing paid family leave, promising that if it has not become state law by January 2015, he would file it as his inaugural bill — as governor.
Grossman later clarified that he is seeking the office.
“I am running for governor of Massachusetts,” Grossman said. “The people of this Commonwealth want leadership that leaves no one behind.”
In the day’s most closely watched speech, Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has said she is considering a gubernatorial bid, was more taciturn.
“I know there are a lot of people making announcements today. I have one, too: Tomorrow is my 60th birthday,” said Coakley, drawing laughs.
“There is an open seat and there are a lot of issues that I care about that a governor will have an important say in,” Coakley said in an interview, listing jobs, education, public safety, and public integrity. She said she would decide whether to run for governor by Labor Day “at the latest.”
Under party rules, only Democrats who had formally declared their intentions to seek the Corner Office could address the gathering in their capacities as candidates. That trio — Joe Avellone, Donald Berwick, and Dan Wolf — delivered relatively staid addresses that keyed on 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 liberal causes.
In a five-minute speech that managed to name the late US senator and former vice president 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 cofounder 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,” Wolf said.
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. US 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. With Patrick not planning to run for a third term and Markey’s election to the Senate, officeholders and electoral neophytes are elbowing for a slate of vacancies.
The party faithful exulted in a string of election victories both narrow and gaping, dating back to Patrick’s reelection in 2010, and sounded notes of determination to sustain their momentum.
Republicans, who have yet to produce a 2014 gubernatorial candidate, ripped Democrats for their stranglehold on Beacon Hill.
“While the one-party monopoly on state government celebrates in Lowell, the rest of Massachusetts braces for more taxes and higher prices at the gas pump in a stagnant job market,” said GOP communications director Tim Buckley. “Massachusetts is in dire need of real leadership as scandals rage in multiple branches of government, but the convention’s headliners offered only more tired campaign platitudes currently failing Massachusetts families.”