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Democratic activists to battle on primary ballot, in caucuses

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO

When voters go to the polls March 1, the biggest question for most of Boston’s predominantly Democratic electorate will be, Bernie or Hillary?

While the selection of a Democratic nominee may be the most important choice on the ballot, in most of the city’s wards there will be other choices with local consequences for the next four years: whom to elect to the local ward committee.

“It’s important for people to look at the whole ballot,” says 1st Suffolk state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.

In Boston’s 22 Democratic ward committees, party activists old and new are running for seats that will give them a voice at the grassroots level of the party. The committees meet monthly and plan events that help educate voters on the issues and candidates for office. Ward committees also endorse candidates and often take positions on ballot questions.

“We represent the party at the local level,” says Matthew Bennett, chairman of the committee in Ward 8, which includes sections of Lower Roxbury and the South End. “We communicate neighborhood concerns to elected officials.”

Ward 8 often joins forces with wards 9, 10, 11, 12 and 19 to hold candidate forums during local and state elections, giving the city’s more progressive-minded voters a chance to query candidates.

“We tend to have similar demographics and concerns,” Bennett says of the wards, which include most of the city’s black, Latino and white progressive voters.

The ward committee seats come with no tangible benefits or pay. Many ward committees may have fewer candidates than vacant seats. Those vacancies present opportunities, notes Dorcena Forry.

“If there are 15 positions and only 14 people running, you can write your name in the ballot and vote for yourself,” she said.

National convention

Following the March 2 primary, supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have a second chance to help their preferred candidate secure the party’s nomination. Massachusetts residents who were registered as Democrats as of December 31, 2015 can sign a nomination paper to run for a seat as a delegate to the national convention, scheduled for July 25 – 28 in Philadelphia. Nomination forms, available on the party’s website, must be signed and returned to the party by March 14.

To be elected a delegate, candidates will have to attend a caucus meeting in their Congressional district. The caucus meetings have not yet been scheduled. All registered Democrats can vote.

“As long as you’re a registered Democrat and can get people to come and vote for you, you get to be a delegate to the national convention,” said Ward 19 Co-chairwoman Karen Payne.

State convention

With the national convention looming on the horizon and no statewide races, this year’s June 4 state convention may not receive as much attention. But the convention offers grass roots party activists a chance to weigh in on the issues the state party prioritizes.

Caucuses to elect delegates to the state convention will be held in February and March. Specific dates and locations can be found on the massdems.org website.