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Dante Ramos

Wait your turn? Moulton and Healey didn’t

Seth Moulton (left) and Maura Healey.John Tlumacki and John Blanding/Globe staff

When Democratic primary voters chose Seth Moulton and Maura Healey on Tuesday — granting them upstart victories in the Sixth Congressional District and attorney general races — they also sent a message to party leadership: Enough with the “wait your turn” mentality. The party culture, built on longstanding grass-roots activism and mutual back-scratching, favors seasoned politicians who have toiled for years in the trenches. Young, ambitious upstarts sometimes don’t even make it past the party’s nominating convention.

But when newbies like Moulton and Healey break with the usual script, voters sometimes respond enthusiastically.

As a partisan calculation, “wait your turn” can be self-defeating. In the Sixth, Tierney was vulnerable in part because of a financial scandal involving his wife. He narrowly defeated Republican Richard Tisei in 2012. Yet any reservations senior Democrats harbored about him somehow vanished in the face of Moulton’s primary challenge. Big names like Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Kennedy III, and Barney Frank closed ranks around the embattled incumbent. But as Tuesday’s results suggest, Democratic voters preferred someone new — a possibility high-profile Democrats never seemed to entertain.


In the attorney general’s race, Tolman, a respected former legislator, secured the support of four former AGs. He enjoyed far more support from labor groups than first-time candidate Maura Healey. He rolled out last-minute endorsements from Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. But Healey’s eye-popping margin — 24 points — suggests that she had read the political landscape far more accurately than Tolman or anyone else had.

Some party stalwarts argue that there’s benefit to experience in office, knowledge of the system, and carefully cultivated relationships. True. But Massachusetts Democrats’ healthy respect for seniority has cultivated some bad mental habits. Yes, experienced elected officials can sometimes produce better results than an ever-changing cast of newbies. But it’s a problem when ambitious up-and-comers have nowhere to go and a decision to challenge an incumbent violates an unwritten code.

Dante Ramos can be reached at dante.ramos@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @danteramos.