Pledging to win back the corner office in November on behalf of the "little guys" who fight for their beliefs, Massachusetts Democrat Jay Gonzalez on Saturday accepted his party's endorsement for governor, giving the former state budget chief a lift coming out of the Democratic convention in a primary in which neither candidate has been able to separate themselves as a frontrunner.
Both Gonzalez, of Needham, and Somerville environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie won sufficient support to earn a spot on the primary ballot, but it was Gonzalez who secured the party endorsement to demonstrate a degree of momentum. As they have done so far on the campaign trail, the two men focused most of their attention on Republican incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker and his party.
"People are going to start to understand that there's a choice in this election, and we don't have to tolerate mediocrity in the governor's office, a governor who is not doing anything to move Massachusetts forward," Gonzalez told reporters after the votes were announced, flanked by nodding supporters in fluorescent yellow t-shirts.
Gonzalez, who served as budget chief under Gov. Deval Patrick before leaving to run the health insurer CeltiCare, took in 70.4 percent of the vote, or 2,872 delegates of the 4,080 who voted in the governor's race. Massie won 29.6 percent, or 1,208 delegates. Fifty-nine delegates abstained.
In his speech to thousands of delegates at the DCU Center, Gonzalez looked beyond the Sept. 4 Democratic primary to November's general election, which he said would be "a choice between someone who is only there for the privileged and the powerful, and someone who will fight for the little guy."
Gonzalez -- who at 5 feet, 3 1/2 inches stands more than foot shorter than Baker -- cast himself as the "little guy, but not just because of my height," pointing to the ethnic slurs he experienced as "the only Spanish kid where I grew up."
He said the Republican Party "doesn't give a damn about the little guy," and Baker is "only there for the wealthy, special interests who fill his campaign coffers."
"Democrats have always believed in the little guy. We have always fought for the little guy. We have always understood that the little guy is us," Gonzalez told the crowd, some of whom held up signs bearing his slogan "Aim High."
Gonzalez thanked both Massie and former Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who dropped out of the race in April citing fundraising woes, for their contributions to the race. Warren, who attended the convention, abstained on his ballot for the governor and lieutenant governor race.
Massie did not reference Gonzalez in his speech, but his campaign, in a press release, characterized the section of Massie's speech in which he discussed his background as "a swing at opponent Jay Gonzalez" and his "Beacon Hill and private sector experience."
"I started as a boy in a wheelchair. My parents were terrified every day that our insurance company would cut us off because my medications were too expensive," Massie said, going on to describe his roles as "a minister who opened a homeless shelter; a teacher who helped his students learn about creating change, an expert on finance with a doctorate in business which I obtained not to make money but so I could build local justice and local prosperity"
Massie took more direct jabs at Baker, asking his party to stand up against "choking apathy and defeatism that says Charlie Baker can't be beaten" and listing protests like the January 2017 Women's March that Baker did not attend.
Blue "Baker Bingo" cards with the MassDems logo were placed under seats in the arena, with squares reading "Privatize," "Superficial Trump criticism," "Dark money from friends," and more.
Baker is the endorsed GOP candidate for governor, and conservative pastor Scott Lively will also be on the Republican primary ballot after he won the support of 27.7 percent of delegates when the MassGOP gathered at the DCU Center in April.
In his convention speech, Baker said state government had been "thrifty, creative" under his watch, and that the Democrats "believe in a bigger, more intrusive, less accountable stategovernment."
Poll numbers and bank balances suggest either Democrat would face a steep climb against Baker.
Gonzalez has a significant fundraising lead over Massie, with $131,792 in his campaign account as of May 15, compared to the $13,445 Massie posted by May 31, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Baker, meanwhile, had nearly $8.3 million in his account at the end of May.
"We don't need to raise as much as he does," Gonzalez told reporters. "We just need to raise enough to support a strong enough grassroots campaign to ensure people are informed about the choice in this election that I described."
A pre-convention WBUR poll of 501 registered voters released this week gave Gonzalez and Massie equal odds in hypothetical matchups against Baker, with Baker holding a 40-point lead over either Democrat. In the Baker/Gonzalez matchup, 19 percent said they were undecided.
Of the smaller pool of respondents asked their opinion of Gonzalez, 4 percent had a favorable view, 2 percent unfavorable, and 79 percent had never heard of him. Massie was slightly better-known, with 66 percent saying they had not heard of him.
In the week leading up to the convention, Gonzalez announced endorsements from Senate President Harriette Chandler, Bernie Sanders Massachusetts presidential campaign co-chairs Reps. Paul Mark and Mary Keefe and a number of other elected officials from Worcester to Cape Cod.
Auditor Suzanne Bump was one of the Democrats who seconded Gonzalez's nomination, and his introduction video featured liberal Sens. Jamie Eldridge and Sonia Chang-Diaz.
Massie said the convention, in some ways, marked the end of the "inside the party part" of the campaign, and that Gonzalez had "very strong connections" with the "more traditional, more inside Democrats, elected officials" who serve as delegates.
"I'm now liberated to go talk to unenrolled voters, and Indivisible folks, and those who are more outside the party, and I happen to think my record and my proposals are going to be very appealing in that setting," he told reporters.
Gonzalez said he offered "an ambitious, progressive agenda" along with "the leadership experience to deliver on it," pledging to deliver a "living wage," paid family leave, affordable housing, and debt free college.
Both he and Massie voiced support for single-payer health care and said they wanted to improve public transportation and infuse more money into public schools.
Massie said he would be "the people's governor," and asked the audience to envision bustling main streets in places like Holyoke and Lawrence, factories "buzzing" with new manufacturing, and triple-deckers equipped with solar panels.
"This may sound like science fiction, but it is not," he said. "This exists all over the world and we can have it if we fight the greed of big oil, big pharma, big real estate, big insurance, big internet and big banks."
This report was originally published by State House News Service.