WORCESTER — US Senator Elizabeth Warren road-tested her populist, anti-Trump message Friday to the party faithful, framing her reelection bid — and potential 2020 preparations — as a revving fight for not just the party’s values but “for democracy itself.”
Headlining the opening night of the Democratic State Convention, Warren used the confab’s platform to hammer home her message of fighting inequality, the Republican-led Congress, and President Trump’s policies.
But in calling for help for the next five months, Warren sought to underline a vision beyond the coming election cycle.
“This administration has brought the crisis in our democracy to a breaking point,” Warren said to thousands of delegates inside the DCU Center. “You see it in the way this Republican Congress gives Donald Trump and his cronies a pass for all their incompetence, corruption, and bigotry.”
“We’re in this fight,” she later added, “and we’re ready to show the American people what we’re fighting for. . . . Together, we can save this democracy.”
The rah-rah speech punctuated the pep rally feel of the convention’s opener, carried by speeches from party stars such as Warren and Attorney General Maura T. Healey armed with shots at Trump and the occasional arrow for Governor Charlie Baker.
Warren is widely seen as a potential White House contender in two years, and despite being expected to win reelection this fall, her race is likely to draw heavy interest from national Republicans intent on dinging her ahead of the 2020 presidential cycle.
Warren, who was introduced by her 7-year-old grandson, Atticus Mann Tyagi, painted a bleak picture of the political moment, describing it as an “all-consuming . . . darkness.” But in a twist of symbolic imagery, she told the crowd that she has a “candle. And so do you.”
“Mitch McConnell can’t shut me up. The Koch brothers can’t buy me off. Donald Trump’s racist tweets won’t scare me off,” Warren said to roars of appreciation. “And if you think I get under their skin now, just you wait.”
Warren laughed off a question about any presidential aspirations in remarks to reporters afterward.
“I am not running for president. I was here to accept the nomination to run for a second term of the United States Senate,” she said, adding her focus is on 2018. “That’s what matters.”
Seeking to energize the party faithful, Healey, Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, and Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg — all of whom are running unopposed in their primaries — extolled the party’s priorities in speeches also taking aim at national Republicans.
Healey, who has brought or been a party to dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration, admonished what she called a “breakdown in trust, the coarsening of dialogue” around the country. “Donald Trump is a symptom — and we need to treat the disease. It’s on us to be the cure,” she said.
But Trump wasn’t the only target. Healey and Bump homed in on Baker, echoing the party’s attacks that the Republican hasn’t made a stronger stand on political issues. “Time and again, the governor retreats to poll-tested safety rather than taking on the tough fights and leading,” Healey charged. “Playing it safe, Massachusetts, is not going to get the job done.”
Bump, who has tussled with Baker publicly over a critical audit she released on the state’s Department of Children and Families, said his “tenure has been unremarkable.”
“Except,” she added, “for his ability to evade responsibility and to use those long legs of his to run away from every difficult political question he is asked. Don’t we want more from our governor?”
The jabs come as 6,200 delegates are expected to return Saturday to Worcester to vote on endorsements for candidates in contested primaries, including governor.
Jay Gonzalez, a former Patrick administration budget chief, and Robert K. Massie, an environmental activist, are vying to face Baker, whose popularity has been buoyed, in part, by an unwillingness by Beacon Hill Democrats to openly criticize him. A WBUR/MassINC survey released Friday showed Baker with a 40-point edge over Gonzalez and Massie in hypothetical matchups, and a 65 percent favorability rating among Democrats — a point higher, even, than Republicans polled.
One of the other closely watched races at the convention may be between longtime incumbent Secretary of State William F. Galvin and challenger Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor. Zakim, has run on a message of bringing a fresh perspective to the low-profile but vital office. Galvin, in emphasizing his record over six terms, is leaning on his deep roots in the party to hold off Zakim for the party’s endorsement.
To get on the Sept. 4 primary ballot, candidates must each get 15 percent of delegate votes.