Longmeadow Daze: Glazer & LDTC’s Organizing Yield Dems a Key Base…
UPDATED 11/16/14 1:57 PM: To clarify Lesser was consistently an LDTC member since joining as a teenager. This week his status changed from “associate” to full “elected” member once again.
Longmeadow Daze is an occasional series reporting on and analyzing Longmeadow government and politics.
LONGMEADOW—Eight days after voters elected Eric Lesser to represent the 1st Hampden & Hampshire senate district, he found himself in a familiar setting and won yet another election, one that harkened back to his earliest political days. At Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee Chair Candy Glazer’s suggestion, the committee formally reinstalled Lesser as a full member.
“Two elections in a week,” beamed Glazer, also the chair and ubiquitous cheerleader for Lesser’s campaign, before introducing, “Senator-elect Eric Lesser.” Once again a full, elected committee member after an interim as an associate member, Glazer stated Lesser “made a complete circle.”
Fittingly, a teenaged Lesser began attending LDTC meetings in the same Greenwood Community Center room, sometimes while babysitting his younger sister, kept occupied with crayons as Democratic business was conducted.
The influence of the LDTC and its chair, Glazer, cannot be understated both in terms of Lesser’s career and the committee’s influence on the town’s politics. As town committees have faded or struggled for relevance, especially amid the rise of independent groups, Glazer has presided over remarkable growth of this Democratic committee in a once all but reliably patrician, Republican suburb of Springfield.
“Dems here have a place and a voice,” said Nicole LaChapelle, Treasurer of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, adding that Glazer’s committee is a training ground for candidates and organizers who win. LaChapelle observed that in a year Democrats like longtime senator Richard Moore lost and newcomer Patrick Leahy could not get traction, “Here comes Eric Lesser…because he learned at the foot of Candy.”
The organization of the LDTC, perhaps concurrent to sociopolitical shifts here, has proved critical to the wins of Lesser, Rep. Brian Ashe and even Democrats running for nonpartisan town office, long dominated by Republicans.
“We really are known in Western Mass,” Glazer said of the LDTC’s organization in an interview.
“She is a legend,” Lesser said. “There’s nobody like her.” Lesser remarked that Glazer’s organizing reputation went well beyond the Bay State and included her knack for maintaining the personal in politics, “She understands politics is ultimately a people business.”
For all the emphasis on Lesser’s prodigious fundraising, close observers of the race would be deceiving themselves to discount the profound effect of hometown supporters like Glazer, Michael Clark (another Glazer disciple) or those elsewhere like Granby Selectman Mark Bail in the district’s northern frontier.
Lesser had advantages both as a Longmeadow High alum and a congregant at Sinai Temple, but a town that voted for both Scott Brown and Charlie Baker came in big for Lesser. He outpolled Baker’s 56% showing here and earned a higher margin in Longmeadow—bolstered by higher turnout—than Republican opponent Debra Boronski did in her neighboring East Longmeadow.
“When he was talking about running,” Glazer recalled of Lesser last year and early this year, she told him, “the first people to reach out to are LDTC members.” Not surprisingly the earliest discussions about Lesser’s nascent bid were in Glazer’s home and later at house parties hosted by LDTC members.
LaChapelle suggested that Lesser owes a great deal to the organization Glazer has built up with the LDTC. Glazer clearly has the respect of her colleagues, but of the pols, too. Last November ahead of the 2014 state elections, many Democratic statewide candidates came to the LDTC’s forum. Martha Coakley personally called Glazer to apologize for missing it.
The LDTC’s annual brunch at Twin Hills Country Club regularly draws pols and office-seekers including very nearly the entire statewide field this past year. Often just a month before the state convention, Glazer noted, it is “the event to attend in Western Mass.”
It is not just partisan activity, either. Glazer and the LDTC hold forums for town offices and urge voters to show up for them. “She’s continually in motion,” LaChapelle said of Glazer.
Glazer’s political activism goes back to her youth in Newton when she campaigned for John F. Kennedy and, two years later, his brother, Edward, then running for US Senate. She and her husband, Stanley, eventually moved to Longmeadow where they raised their children. After being a delegate to 23 state conventions and 5 national ones and joining the state Democratic committee, Glazer earned a coveted spot as one of Massachusetts’s 11 electors for Barack Obama in 2012.
But the emphasis is on the local. “Democrats never really won anything,” Mary Gail Cokkinias, a state committee and LTDC member said. When Cokkinias first moved to Longmeadow, the LTDC was “very tiny.” Today the LTDC has a full 35 member slate, the town regularly goes blue in presidential elections and has voted Democratic for state legislative seats since GOP Rep Mary Rogeness retired in 2008. The GOP could not even muster an opponent for Ashe this year. Many attribute this to the sign-holding, door-knocking, and phone-calling Glazer and her members do.
Some of the success in Longmeadow is due to coincidental shifts. As the national Republican Party moved away from the center, the traditional waspy Republican population did not. Meanwhile, Jewish, Italian and Irish up-and-coming residents began streaming into the town from Springfield, but hardly checked their Democratic proclivity at the border.
Lesser certainly enjoyed considerable love from his hometown, but there is also a deep respect and affection between him and Glazer, too. After perhaps Lesser’s wife, daughter and parents, Glazer was a key source of support in the campaign, traveling to countless events across the district and trekking out to Boston to back Lesser during his residency hearing.
Reflecting on how far they go back, Glazer recalled the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, which both she and Lesser attended. As part of the host delegation, they were right up front. Glazer said she has a picture of them with Obama, Lesser’s future boss, in the background giving the Red States/Blue States speech that shot the then-Illinois State Senator into the political stratosphere.
“I’m proud of all of my members,” Glazer said, recognizing Thomas Lachiusa’s campaign in the Democratic primary that Lesser won in September. However, she noted that Lesser’s was the first campaign she formally chaired after having taken less formal roles in countless others. “Each time the crowd got bigger,” she said of Lesser’s events.
For his part, Lesser does not focus only on Glazer’s electoral or organizational support. She “combines her warmth, her genuine belief in the process,” he said, adding “she’s the first to show up with a personalized birthday card.”
Glazer didn’t miss a beat on that front either. At the height of the campaign, Lesser said she called his parents on their anniversary and even bought a gift for his daughter Rose on her first birthday.