By Douglas Moser
---- — Area Democratic caucuses have wrapped up and no candidate in a crowded gubernatorial field emerged as a clear favorite in the Merrimack Valley, mirroring the trend among Democratic party insiders statewide.
One committee’s delegates to the Democratic convention in Worcester this June unanimously went for one candidate, while the others had numerous delegates elected without declaring for a candidate, or split among the five candidates.
North Andover’s 13 delegates, elected Feb. 12, will support state Treasurer Steven Grossman, town party officials said. Methuen elected 20 delegates on Saturday, and they split between Attorney General Martha Coakley, 12, and Grossman, 6, with four undecided. The two extra delegates are Mayor Stephen Zanni and the chairman of the city committee, who are automatically delegates.
Haverhill, which held its caucus Feb. 24, elected 35 delegates after every gubernatorial candidate but Coakley spoke, said William Cox, chairman of the Haverhill Democratic City Committee.
“Probably a majority of them are not committed to any candidate,” he said. “I think it’s a bit unusual when you have a race like this, because what I’ve seen in the past, especially for governor, they tend to organize for the caucuses and get slates of delegates.”
Cox said Gov. Deval Patrick and former Gov. Michael Dukakis excelled at that type of organizing.
In Lawrence, Grossman appeared at the city’s caucus on Saturday. Jay Rivera, chairman of the Lawrence Democratic City Committee, estimated that about 40 percent of the 36 delegates elected supported Grossman.
“Lawrence has always been a community that if you do the work, you get elected,” Rivera said. “The voters look for that. His being there had a huge impact on how delegates were elected.”
Rivera said one district still has to elect its seven delegates, meaning Lawrence will have 43 total.
In Methuen, Democratic City Committee Chairman Bryan Sweet said the support for Coakley was a bit unexpected. “We were expecting more Grossman people to come out,” Sweet said. “That’s what the talk has been, Grossman. All of a sudden, in the last couple of weeks it seems to have changed to Coakley.”
The only other candidate who had a supporter there was former Homeland Security official and former columnist Juliette Kayyem.
“For me personally, the surprising thing was the lack of Grossman supporters at the caucus,” Sweet said.
Tricia Melvin, chair of the North Andover Democratic Town Committee, said that town’s delegates went to Grossman because his supporters organized them.
“Most of the members of the town committee are Steve Grossman supporters and we were able to put together a group,” Melvin said. “We did not see much activity from the other candidates’ campaigns. No body else had a group of people there supporting their attendees to the convention.”
Andover held its caucus on Feb. 10. Kate Machet, of the Andover Democratic Town Committee, did not return a phone message and email seeking comment about the town’s delegates.
Early polls of voters show Coakley with a 45-point lead over Grossman. However, Cox said that none of the five candidates has generated overwhelming support among the party faithful statewide.
Along with Coakley, Grossman and Kayyem, Joe Avellone III, a surgeon and health care executive, and Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and former president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, are running for the Democratic nomination.
On the Republican side, Charlie Baker is taking a second run at the Corner Office, along with Mark Fisher, a small businessman from Auburn.
Coakley holds a 13-percent lead over Baker in a Suffolk University poll released Feb. 4, but Baker led the other four Democrats in head-to-head match ups.
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