WORCESTER, Mass. — Thousands of Democratic activists from across Massachusetts were gathering Friday in Worcester for the party’s nominating convention.
The two-day confab was to begin Friday evening with speeches by two of the party’s heavyweights, Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Patrick’s convention speech will be his last as governor.
The party will use the opening ceremonies to officially nominate Democrats who are facing no primary challengers in September, including U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.
Friday’s speeches are the run-up to the main event Saturday when the convention will hear from candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer.
The most closely watched race is the five-way contest for governor.
Each of the candidates – Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Treasurer Steven Grossman, business executive Joseph Avellone, former federal health care administrator Don Berwick and former homeland security officer Juliette Kayyem – need the support of 15 percent of the delegates at the convention to secure a spot on the September primary ballot.
Those who fail to get their 15 percent won’t make it onto the ballot, effectively ending their candidacies.
A new Boston Globe poll found Coakley is holding a 49 percent to 14 percent lead over her next closest competitor, Grossman, among likely Democratic voters. The poll was conducted in two waves, June 1-3 and June 8-10, and included 442 likely Democratic primary voters. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
To help avoid some of the voting confusion that dogged the Republican state convention earlier this year, Democratic party leaders said blank ballots will not be counted.
There will also be no full second ballot. Instead, if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes on the first ballot, the two top vote-getters will go head-to-head to see who wins the endorsement.
The biggest challenge facing the party is protecting their considerable political territory. Democrats hold every statewide seat, every congressional office, both U.S. Senate seats and overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.
There are also open races for attorney general, lieutenant governor and treasurer. The candidates face the same 15 percent rule.
The two Democrats running for attorney are former state Sen. Warren Tolman against Maura Healey, a former top deputy in Coakley’s office.
The Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor include former Department of Agriculture regional administrator James Arena-DeRosa, Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, former presidential elector Michael Lake and former Lancaster selectman Stephen Kerrigan.
Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the primary and then as a team in the general election.
The Democratic candidates for treasurer include Wayland state Rep. Thomas Conroy, Andover state Sen. Barry Finegold, and former Brookline Selectman Deborah Goldberg.
Two statewide Democratic incumbents, state Secretary William Galvin and Auditor Suzanne Bump, face no primary challenge.