Martin Long, Democratic candidate in the special primary for the House of Representatives, Fifth District, finally had his say. After 20 minutes of negotiation, the Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts gave him two minutes at the podium. For Long, that was a hard-worn victory.
He had been trying for weeks to appear with five candidates, who had been preselected by the PDM. Even though he was on the ballot, Long was told that only those "with a serious chance of winning the seat" were invited to participate.
The forum was held Thursday night, September 12, at Lesley University, Cambridge.
Long criticized the Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts for trying to control the nominating process. "I'm as liberal and progressive as anyone in this room. I always thought that progressive meant openness and inclusiveness."
At one point he said that his exclusion reminded him of the days of poll taxes. Since he is financing his campaign out of his retirement fund, he doesn't have $400,000 in his war chest. But that is no reason why he shouldn't compete. At another point he questioned, with some conern,whether this insistence on uniformity--of not considering a larger range of opinions on issues--was the start of a Democratic version of the Tea Party. "This is not the Democratic Party that I know," he said of the attempt to exclude him from discussions.
Long has had an uphill battle getting media attention. Many Democrats began coalescing behind five politicians even before Ed Markey had resigned his House seat. Long's campaign is built upon ideas rather than a large staff and media budget. "Ideas are funny things," he observed. "They spread by themselves."
Long pointed out that as a former Lexington School Committee member, he had a good reputation among Independents and Republicans for listening to them, although they might disagree. Gridlock happens, he said, when people adopt absolutist positions.
In his conclusion, Long challenged each of his opponents to a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, "where issues could be discussed in depth." He would be ready any time, he said. "I don't need to prepare for debates."
His remarks were met with applause.
When Long showed up uninvited, the PDM gave him two minutes to address the audience. But they still didn't invite him to participate.
Paul Maisano, the seventh Democratic candidate on the ballot, also wa s not invited. But he appeared with Long in a sign of solidarity.