Thousands of Massachusetts Democratic Party activists gathered in Worcester for their annual convention Saturday and in a surprise move endorsed the challenger in the secretary of state race over the long-time incumbent.
Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim welcomed the support of delegates while Secretary of State William Galvin acknowledged he has a fight on his hands in the September primary.
Zakim won about 55-percent of the vote to Galvin's 45-percent. Galvin said that while he would have preferred to win the endorsement, he has "a history of exceeding expectations in the primary.''
In the race for governor, delegates tapped former state Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez with 70-percent of the vote over businessman and environmental activist Bob Massie with 30-percent. Democrats are trying to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who also is seeking re-election.
In the race for lieutenant governor, delegates backed former White House policy adviser Quentin Palfrey with about 59-percent of the vote compared to 41-percent for comic Jimmy Tingle.
All six candidates won enough support to appear on the primary ballot.
Gonzalez zeroed in on Baker saying he's benefited by appearing less extreme than President Donald Trump but has failed to make enough progress addressing critical issues like transportation, affordable housing, education and the state's opioid crisis.
"Today's Republican Party doesn't give a damn about the little guy,'' Gonzalez said. "Charlie Baker doesn't care about the little guy, too.''
Gonzalez said if elected he'd work to expand access to child care, push for debt-free college and advocate for what he called a living wage.
Massie also aimed at Baker, saying Baker's "too terrified'' of Trump to stand up to him.
"The Republican Party abandoned its values in order to achieve power, and in doing so they sold their soul to the moneyed interests who use them as a tool,'' he said. "Charlie Baker is the epitome of that failure.''
Massie tried to cast Gonzalez as too connected to Beacon Hill and the private sector, while highlighting his own experience with nonprofit groups and as a minister who opened a homeless shelter.
But the biggest surprise of the day was Zakim's upset endorsement over Galvin, which could signal a shift in power toward younger political figures in the party.
In his address to delegates, Zakim said more needs to be done to expand access to the ballot and make it easier for hundreds of thousands of eligible, but unregistered, voters to cast votes.
"The unfortunate reality is that here, in the birthplace of American democracy, we are embarrassingly behind on voting rights and access,'' Zakim said.
Zakim said the state should also be moving faster to adopt "automatic voter registration'' which would automatically update a person's voter registration when he or she notifies a state agency such as renewing their license with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Galvin said he's already pressed lawmakers to adopt automatic voter registration and has pushed back against efforts by the Trump administration to include a citizenship question on the 2020 federal census. Galvin said the question could discourage non-citizens from being counted, disproportionately harming states like Massachusetts.
"They're trying to sabotage the census,'' Galvin said.
Palfrey said his experience working in the White House would be a key asset in helping the state navigate its way through federal government programs. He also criticized what he called the cruelty of the Trump administration.
"We need to fight back against every terrible policy this administration sends our way.''
Tingle said he would use his years in the entertainment industry to help communicate the message of Democrats not only to party members, but to those who have grown disenchanted with the party.
"I believe in God and I believe in the power of government to change people's lives,'' he said.