WORCESTER, Mass. — Massachusetts Democrats have narrowed their choice for governor to three, with state Treasurer Steven Grossman topping the balloting among delegates Saturday and Attorney General Martha Coakley narrowly edging out former federal health care administrator Don Berwick.
Two other Democratic hopefuls – former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem and business executive and former Wellesley selectman Joseph Avellone – failed to collect the needed 15 percent of delegates, ending their campaigns.
Grossman won the backing of 35 percent of delegates at the Democratic state convention in Worcester on the first round of balloting. He won the party’s formal endorsement by acclamation after Coakley, who has led by wide margins in recent polls of likely Democratic voters, opted not to seek a second head-to-head runoff.
Coakley, a veteran Democratic political figure who has continued to grapple with her upset loss to Republican Scott Brown in the special election four years ago to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, won 23 percent of delegates.
Berwick, a first time candidate, had a strong showing among more liberal Democrats in part because of his support of a so-called “single payer” health plan. He collected 22 percent of delegates.
Grossman, who said he would run in the primary as a “progressive job creator,” criticized Coakley’s convention performance.
“The overwhelming front-runner according to the polls was rejected by 75 percent of the delegates in this convention hall. You can’t be governor of Massachusetts without having that army of activists behind you,” said Grossman.
In her speech to the several thousand convention delegates, Coakley said she understood the frustration Democrats felt after her 2010 loss and promised not to let her guard down this time.
“There is no one who is going to travel more miles, knock on more doors, shake more hands, or make more phone calls than me in this race,” Coakley said. “And if I earn your support in September, and someone thinks they’re going to beat us in this race, they have no idea of the fight they’ve got on their hands.”
Coakley insisted her second-place finish was not a disappointment. She also said it had been her idea to mention the 2010 defeat in her convention speech.
“I felt it was really important to say to people, `I know how tough that loss was,”‘ Coakley told reporters after the vote.
Berwick began his speech with the story of a young black man who beat childhood leukemia only to die, impoverished, in the streets later in life.
“It is a lie that those with great wealth have the right to control our future. It is a lie that corporations are people. They aren’t. It is a lie that the poor make themselves poor; that the sick make themselves sick,” said Berwick, who has also made opposition to casinos a centerpiece of his campaign.
Berwick said he believed primary voters would be responsive to his message.
“I think the seeds are there for an extremely successful campaign because the message we have is the message that this commonwealth is waiting for: boldness, achievement, being a beacon for the nation,” Berwick said.
Despite not making the ballot, Kayyem and Avellone said they would continue fighting for the issues they pushed during their campaigns.
Republicans Charlie Baker and Mark Fisher will both appear on the GOP primary ballot for governor.
Democrats also chose which candidates for other statewide offices would secure a spot on the September primary ballot using the same 15 percent rule.
Former state Sen. Warren Tolman narrowly beat out Maura Healey, a top aide to Coakley, to win the party’s endorsement for attorney general. Both will be on the primary ballot.
Stephen Kerrigan, a former aide to Kennedy, was the top vote-getter in the lieutenant governor contest with 38 percent to 35 percent for Michael Lake, who runs the Leading Cities organization. Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, with 16 percent, also made the ballot, but former Department of Agriculture regional administrator James Arena-DeRosa fell short with 11 percent.
Former Brookline Selectwoman Deborah Goldberg topped the balloting for state treasurer, followed by Wayland state Rep. Thomas Conroy and Andover state Sen. Barry Finegold. All three will appear on the primary ballot.