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February 1, 2014 / needhamgrassroots

More on Caucuses: Voting, Running, Slates, Organizing

rockthecaucusThis post is from 2014–the dates are no longer relevant, but the information/explanations still apply! For an overview on Caucuses 2018 edition click here.

Other explainers/posts on Caucuses, what they are and why they are important appear HERE (PRIMARIES, CAUCUSES) and HERE (15%).

This explainer goes a little further in depth about the nature of voting, running, “slates,” commitments and the power of organizing.

NEED A RECAP? Caucuses play an important part in determining what kinds of Democrats run for office in Massachusetts (which in turn influences what kinds of Democrats move from state office to the national stage).  Any/all Registered Democrats, at their town/city’s Caucus, vote for Delegates to represent them at the Convention. At the Convention, Delegates vote for the candidate they want to see advance to the Primary. Candidates for statewide office must receive at least 15% of the Convention Delegates’ total votes in order to advance to the Primary. The Primary election determines which candidate will advance as The Democratic Nominee for the general election against the Republican candidate (and/or other 3rd parties). The general election determines who wins the offices of Governor, Sec. of State, Auditor, Lt. Governor, Treasurer, Attorney General. As you can see, WHO serves in these offices all begins with you the registered Democrat, and your participation, as voter or/and delegate candidate, at the Caucus.

So, you understand how important Caucuses are, you’re registered as a Democrat, and you’re all prepared to go to your town’s caucus [find your caucus info/date, here]. Caucuses for each town/ward happen on ONE day. You MUST be present to participate! And you must SHOW UP AT LEAST 15 minutes EARLY, if not earlier! You will have to be SIGNED IN–and your status as a registered Democrat verified against the voter rolls.

Every Caucus follows the same rules about access and voting, but every town will have a different culture and norms. But here are some elements you  might encounter, which might be confusing. A stab at a few:


At your caucus, there may be a variety of SLATES of delegate candidates with motions to vote on the slates as a whole–instead on individual votes on 10 (or however many delegates you’re elected), you take ONE vote on the SLATE of pre-selected delegates.

Slates can be put together in a number of different circumstances. It can be organized by the town’s Democratic Committee. It could be organized by campaigns–a slate of delegate candidates who all support “John Smith” for Governor, and will vote for John Smith at the Convention.

Slates can be powerful means to get a block of people — and a particular agenda — elected to delegates for Convention. And if you are new to the “scene”, it might be a barrier to you or other “new” faces to get elected. But at the end of it all, whoever gets the most votes will win a spot to the convention–so it’s in your interest (and the interest of Grassroots Organizing) to start talking to friends and make new allies, and bring them with you to the Caucus!

IF YOU WANT TO RUN AS A DELEGATE — contact the Committee chair and find out if there are known slates, and whether there is room for you on one of them that fits your position. You can try to get on a slate, or you can choose to run off of a slate. Either way, it’s helpful to KNOW in advance what is happening. Remember you need to get the most votes! 


People running as delegates do NOT *have* to have a declared candidate to support as of Caucus time. As might be imagined, campaigns would very much like to have committed delegates voted in at caucus. They want to make sure that they have enough votes to reach 15% of the total votes at convention (otherwise, their candidacy is over). But there is a strong an argument to remain–and run as–uncommitted, or to VOTE for uncommitted delegates.  

A delegate could use her/his uncommitted status to maximize her/his ability to shape the agenda, as her/his vote will be sought after by the candidates. 


If you are part of a slate, the slate will be offered for a vote, and your name will be on it. But if you are not part of a slate, and you want to run to go to convention as a delegate, you will need to first be NOMINATED. Again, bringing friends and supporters (registered Dems, from your town/ward) is helpful here. Ask your friend to nominate you, and another to Second the nomination. And of course, ask them to support you when it comes time to vote!

As a nominated candidate, you have the opportunity to make a SHORT speech/presentation in favor of your candidacy. Keep your words short (don’t irritate the voters with lengthy speeches!). Emphasize work you have done, for campaigns, for issues, so on. If you are running to be a delegate FOR a particular candidate (for gov, for treas., whatever), you can say so — to encourage other supporters of that candidate to vote for you. If you are running without a commitment to a candidate, talk about the values you want to see in the candidates you support. (for example, “At convention, I will vote for the nominees that are strong progressives who stand up for economic justice, and I plan to engage with all the campaigns to urge them to pursue these values…”). If you are a “new face”, acknowledge it, and, as long as you’re not lying (!), say how excited you are to work with the ward/town committee on campaigns and issues important to the Democratic party.


Great question!! The caucuses are BY DESIGN open to the broadest possible audience — all registered Democrats in each municipality. But it seems that all but the “insiders” know or understand this.

At its best, the caucus system is an opportunity for actual grassroots organizing and people power (if you know your community, and can convince them to show up and support you and your vision, you win!).

At its worst, it’s smoke-filled back rooms with insiders and gatekeepers setting the agenda and keeping everyone else out (one explanation as to why the process isn’t well communicated to the everyday Democrats who care and vote — but know nothing about how to get involved at this level).

Now that YOU know about it… Share with others in your community — don’t just despair at the state of our Party; change it! Just by showing up and voting! Caucus dates here:

more info on 2014 Caucuses: and





UPDATE 2/7/2014:

Memo from the Needham Democratic Town Committee executive board about the Committee’s proposed slate for delegation:

Executive Committee to recommend the slate of candidates listed below for election as Needham’s delegates to the this year’s Democratic State Convention.
The Caucus will be held this Saturday, February 7, at the Newman Elementary School Auditorium, 1145 Central Avenue. Registration starts at 9:30 AM and you must be registered or in line to register by 10 am in order to be eligible to vote in the Caucus. 
The Caucus will elect 19 Delegates and 3 Alternates to the State Convention to be held in June. Delegates are evenly distributed by gender.  Also, because the rules allow “youth”  (under age 35) candidates who are nominated but not elected at the Caucus to qualify for selection as youth add-on delegates (a separate process) the slate includes an additional person we hope to qualify by that route.
Our slate of candidates is as follows:
FEMALE  DELEGATES : (Vote for 9)
Claire Dee Ecsedy
Genevieve Hammond
Laurie Hutcheson
Kathy Jacques
Fredie Kay
Sheila Pransky
Stacie Shapiro
Karen Walker
Harmony Wu
MALE DELEGATES:  (vote for 9, plus nominate one additional)
John Bulian
Artie Crocker
Michael Diener
Steve Jacques
Dan Matthews
Walter McDonough
Terence Noonan
Alan Pransky
Greg Shesko
Michael Jacques  (potential youth add-on)
19th DELEGATE (either gender): John Kirk




We feel that this group of active Democrats, who serve in elected office, attend Democratic Party meetings and past conventions, or hold house parties and raise money for our candidates, and work on Democratic campaigns, can effectively represent the Needham Democratic Town Committee at the upcoming State Democratic Convention in Worcester.  We ask that you  support the Town Committee slate of candidates in its entirety at the Caucus.
— Executive Board of the Needham Democratic Town Committee

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