US Senator Elizabeth Warren was headlining. Jay Gonzalez, the Democratic Party’s choice for governor, was attending. Even Geoff Diehl — Warren’s opponent — was holding his own press conference nearby.
There’s just one thing the “rally in support of Lori Trahan” was missing Friday: Lori Trahan.
In a strange turn of events, Trahan, the party’s nominee in the Third Congressional District, announced just hours before she was scheduled to appear with her fellow Democrats that she wouldn’t be attending the party-organized event.
According to her campaign, Trahan had a long-scheduled “personal conflict” and had also scheduled fund-raising meetings in New York. “She is going against a Republican candidate with deep pockets and has a short amount of time to raise money to be competitive in this race,” said Gretchen Grosky, a Trahan spokeswoman, a reference to the GOP nominee in the race, Rick Green.
Gus Bickford, the state Democratic Party’s chairman, took blame for the mix-up, saying he had scheduled the rally for Trahan without knowing she couldn’t attend. He said there was a “significant amount of scheduling that happened in a short period of time.” Officials had first publicized the event Tuesday.
“We moved ahead and frankly just announced it,” Bickford said Friday afternoon. “My staff and I didn’t cross our T’s and dot our I’s. . . . So the buck stops here.”
The change in course was notable, both for its timing — officials disclosed it less than three hours before media was to be allowed in at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center — and the fact that its honored candidate was the only one responding to the invitation with a regret.
It follows what had already been a chaotic set of events in the Third District. After just a few dozen votes separated Trahan and fellow Democrat Dan Koh after the Sept. 4 election, the party went nearly two weeks without a confirmed nominee while state officials undertook a recount. Koh ultimately conceded Monday afternoon, and less than 24 hours later, Democrats gathered in Lowell for a “unity” event in support of Trahan.
When party officials were able to confirm Warren — its most prominent political star — for a follow-up event Friday, they jumped at it.
That meant the show was to go on, with or without Trahan.
“I think it’s an Elizabeth Warren and Jay Gonzalez rally,” Bickford said ahead of the event’s new focus. “It’s promoting the Democratic ticket.”Reach Matt Stout firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.