State Sen. Benjamin Downing is the chairman of the party's coordinated campaign aimed to rally voters to the polls in November.
RICHMOND, Mass. — County Democrats haven't forgotten the night Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate.
And they don't want anything similar to happen again.
"Scott Brown did nothing fancy in that campaign. He got 100 percent of the people who voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin to come out. One hundred percent of their vote showed up. Sixty percent of our vote came out and we lost," state Sen. Benjamin Downing told area Democrats on Sunday afternoon.
"We know that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach where we lost an election and we know we could have done better."
It's a point Downing's been making as he traverses the state as chairman of the party's "coordinated campaign."
Downing says his role is twofold: communication and organization. The state Democratic Party learned its lesson from the Brown election and is starting early to rally Democratic voters to support whoever comes out of Sept. 9th's primary, he said. While the Democratic candidates are concentrating on primary turnout, the coordinated campaign is working on the next cycle.
"When we get our vote out here in Massachusetts, Democrats win. We've been able to get to 30,000 of those drop-off Democratic voters that generally only come out for a presidential election," Downing said.
On Sunday, Downing was at another Democratic rally, this one closer to home. The barbecue at Camp Russell was organized by the Berkshire state delegation, Register of Deeds Patsy Harris and the Pittsfield Democratic City Committee.
"The goal is to bring energy and awareness to the Democratic party. It is what the coordinated campaign has been doing all summer, Senator Downing has been the chair of that. It is part of the state party's effort to ensure that the grassroots and the Democratic ideals are energized in this big election coming up," said Pittsfield Democratic City Committee Chairman Kevin Sherman.
The gathering drew some 50 or so people for food and drinks, including the elected officials Downing, state Rep. Paul Mark, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and Sheriff Thomas Bowler. Representatives from Congressman Richard Neal's office were also in attendance.
Lieutenant governor candidates Leland Cheung and Steve Kerrigan and attorney general candidate Warren Tolman spoke to party members as they enter the final stretch before the primary.
"To me, the goal is to ensure Massachusetts Democrats don't take for granted what we have. We understand what we want. We understand our ideals. We understand what leaders we want in office. If we want that to continue, we can't take it for granted," Sherman said, calling the Brown election an "eye opener."
"If we don't organize. It we don't stay true to our virtues. If we don't campaign. If we don't work together, we lose the type of leaders we want or get leaders we don't want," Sherman said.
Some of the party's active volunteers, including Sheila Murray of the Berkshire Brigades at left, attended Sunday's event that was both a fundraiser for the party but also a rally for organizers to get out the vote.
Mitt Romney was a governor the party didn't want and Downing says if another Republican is elected to the office, the Democrats will be playing "defense" on every issue.
"We're going to make sure that voters across the commonwealth remember that we've had Republican governors before. We had them for 16 years and we know the result of having Republican governors.
"It leaves us 47th in the nation in job creation. We end up with a Big Dig financing scheme that gives us a billion deficit very single year in transportation investments.
"Beyond that deficit — because it would be one thing if we spent that money wisely but it ties it up in the Big Dig financing scheme that doesn't even help Boston out as much as it should. It certainly doesn't help outlying areas like this or the Cape that needs those investments to grow our economy," Downing said.
In Downing's role as chairman of the coordinated campaign, he says he is "reminding" voters about Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker's party affiliation and his previous stances on issues.
"He's running away from it. He's trying to hide from it. He doesn't want everything that comes with that label. He could run as an independent, nothing is stopping him. He's running as a Republican and he is going own that, every last bit of it," Downing said.
Meanwhile, Downing is organizing canvasses to reach out the voters and emphasizing the state's progress under Gov. Deval Patrick.
"Massachusetts is back in the leadership business again. We're first in the nation in energy efficiency. We're first in the nation in student achievement," Downing said. "We're first in the nation in health care coverage. We are first in the nation in veteran services at a time when we know our federal delegation — Congressman Neal and others — are trying to make sure the [Veterans Affairs] lives up to its promise. We are showing the way."