scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Joan Vennochi

Democrats played hardball with Marisa DeFranco

Marisa DeFranco received support from less than 5 percent of the delegates to the Democratic state convention on Saturday.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

So much for the sisterhood.

When push came to shove, Marisa DeFranco got shoved off the primary ballot. Winning in November is more important to Democrats than standing behind one woman who wanted to challenge another one for the right to run for US Senate.

DeFranco, the lone Democrat who refused to bow out when Elizabeth Warren jumped into the race, got support from less than 5 percent of the delegates to the Democratic state convention. She needed 15 percent to force a primary. And throughout the day in Springfield, top Democrats — male and female — made it clear they hoped DeFranco would not get the votes she needed.


They also did more than hope. They worked the floor hard, focusing on delegates who might have a soft spot for the idea of democracy and a primary fight, and basically told them they were crazy for backing such potentially damaging concepts.

Mary Anne Marsh, a longtime Democratic activist, said it will take a "dictatorship, not democracy" to beat Republican Scott Brown; in other words, Democrats need to be united behind one, strong candidate who can beat Brown, and not be distracted by an energy-draining primary fight that DeFranco was destined to lose anyway.

Deb Goldberg, who lost a primary fight for lieutenant governor to Tim Murray, said she admired DeFranco's "spunk". Even so, Goldberg said that party unity is important.

Most convention delegates were blunt about the stakes. A primary is "a waste of time," said Sally Rizzo, of Newton. A showdown between DeFranco and Warren "would only help Scott Brown." It's "naive" to think a primary helps the Democrats: " We've been there a million times. It never works," said Rizzo.


So now, everything rides on Warren's ability to beat Brown. If she does it, she will be the first woman Massachusetts sends to the US Senate. If she doesn't, she'll be yet another woman who couldn't withstand the hard-nosed scrutiny that comes with Bay State politics.

The Warren campaign attributed the outcome to strong grassroots organization. Warren said she had been out working "for every single vote." "Let's not say anyone pushed anybody off the ballot," insisted Warren.

Perhaps caught up in the thrill of an overwhelming convention victory, Warren also seemed inexplicably unaware of the history behind the female quest for office in Massachusetts. Asked by a reporter if she is the first woman "to seek this seat" she said, " I don't know" and suggesting asking the pundits. Warren might want to ask Martha Coakley, the attorney general who will be always be known as the woman who lost Ted Kennedy's seat to Brown.

Warren said she would get in touch with DeFranco.

As for DeFranco, she will have plenty of time to ponder the message sent by fellow Democrats.They showed no mercy in rallying the troops behind the one woman they believe is capable of taking Brown down.