Gubernatorial candidate Bob Massie got skunked at the state Democratic Convention last weekend, his campaign account is down to a piddling $23,000, and in recent days he has had to explain why his wife sought a restraining order for him to vacate their home amid a divorce in 1995.
Even worse, party insiders are openly speculating about whether the longtime social and environmental activist can keep his candidacy afloat — speculation Massie thoroughly rejects.
Massie’s selling point has been that he wears his passion for progressive issues on his sleeve — and has the stage presence that can create a groundswell of political support.
His problem is that he fell flat at the convention when he most needed to use his talents to rally Democrats, getting 30 percent of the delegate vote, and ceded significant ground to his rival, onetime Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez.
“This is a crushing blow because it exposes his lack of grass-roots support, which is his big selling point,’’ veteran Democratic political strategist Doug Rubin said. “I like Bob Massie and I think he brings a lot of energy to the Democratic Party, but a candidate like him can’t build a movement without grass-roots support.”
One bit of hope for the financially strapped Massie lies with the potential for his campaign committee to get an infusion of cash, thanks to Massachusetts taxpayers.
He has already pumped $90,000 of his own money into the campaign to keep his candidacy afloat and raised $286,000 in donations.
Massie, like all candidates, will probably be able to qualify for public financing, which means he can use his donations to obtain matching funds. His campaign thinks it could be $100,000 or more. But even that won’t come until July 10, when everything, by law, must be certified and sorted out by state campaign and election officials before the money can be released.
Gonzalez is also putting in for public funding. Because he raised considerably more than Massie, Gonzalez will collect substantially more. He has raised $689,703 and had a balance of $171,642 of May 31. His campaign aides feel they may get $200,000 or more in matching public funds.
That, of course, is chump change compared with the $8.2 million that Governor Charlie Baker holds in his campaign account — not to mention the $3.65 million that his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, has in hers.
Lou DiNatale, a veteran of decades of Massachusetts Democratic political campaigns, said Gonzalez, with his strong appeal to a convention hall full of progressive activists, has essentially boxed Massie in — to the point that he is in a very precarious position just when he needs to launch into a full-throttled primary campaign.
“The problem for Bob Massie is that Jay Gonzalez has effectively co-opted his issues, moving to [the] left and leaving him little or no room to maneuver,’’ DiNatale said.
Massie, needless to say, has a different interpretation. His spokesman Arjun Singh claims Massie is “delighted” with the convention outcome because it “proved his statewide grass-roots support by decisively winning a place on the primary ballot for governor.”
“At the convention, his delegates gave him twice the necessary votes to clear the party threshold,’’ he said. “Building on this momentum, he now has the chance to present himself to the majority of voters who want to move beyond insider party politics to achieve bold and genuine progressive change.”Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.