Locals picked as Dem convention delegates

  • From left, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Easthampton resident Nicole LaChapelle and Springfield School Committee member and pastor Calvin McFadden hold up their ballots at a caucus event Saturday. The three were awarded spots as delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July. Dave Eisenstadter

  • A sign for Nicole LaChapelle, Calvin McFadden and Alex Morse, who all won spots as delegates Saturday, was posted on the backs of all seats at the caucus for Hillary Clinton in Springfield on Saturday. Though they ran as a slate, others pointed out they were not the official slate of the party. Dave Eisenstadter

  • Calvin McFadden of Springfield speaks at the caucus for Hillary Clinton in Springfield on Saturday as Congressman Richard Neal looks on. Dave Eisenstadter

  • Nicole LaChapelle of Easthampton speaks at the caucus for Hillary Clinton in Springfield on Saturday. Dave Eisenstadter

  • From left, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Easthampton resident Nicole LaChapelle and Springfield School Committee member and pastor Calvin McFadden fill out their ballots at a caucus event Saturday. The three were awarded spots as delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July. Dave Eisenstadter—

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks at a caucus for Hillary Clinton in Springfield on Saturday. Dave Eisenstadter—

  • Democratic voters gather at a caucus for Hillary Clinton in Springfield on Saturday. Dave Eisenstadter—

  • —Amanda Drane

  • —Amanda Drane

  • —Amanda Drane

  • —Amanda Drane

  • New delegate James Bedard, right, of West Boylston shakes hands with elected alternate delegate Peter Corbett of Shutesbury at the 2nd Congressional District Democratic caucus Saturday at Greenfield Middle School. AMANDA DRANE

  • —Amanda Drane

Staff Writers
Monday, April 11, 2016


Staff Writers

SPRINGFIELD — Easthampton resident Nicole LaChapelle and recent University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate Noman Khanani are among those selected to represent western Massachusetts at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

LaChapelle was chosen along with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Springfield School Committee member Calvin McFadden at a caucus at the Van Sickle Middle School auditorium in Springfield on Saturday with 300 voters. The three will be delegates for Hillary Clinton at the convention, representing the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District.

Khanani, 24, now of Worcester, was one of three delegates chosen at a Massachusetts 2nd Congressional District caucus held at Greenfield Middle School to support Bernie Sanders. The others were James Bedard, 28, of West Boylston, and Homaira Naseem, 59, of Boylston. Shutesbury resident Peter Corbett was selected as an alternate for Sanders.

Her voice thick with emotion, LaChapelle said she has been politically active since the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have guaranteed equal rights for women under the Constitution, failed in 1983.

“It’s a complete honor,” she said following the vote. “I am going to go and represent our strongest and most qualified candidate for president, and that’s a female.”

Khanani, a former student leader at UMass Amherst and soon-to-be policy student at Boston University, was exuberant in his two-minute speech and took the first win in his respective caucus.

“I’m someone involved in politics because of Bernie Sanders,” said Khanani. “There’s a lot of work left — we have to convince the super-delegates. This is just one step.”

The caucuses

Eighteen caucuses were held across the state, one each for Clinton and Sanders in all nine of the Massachusetts congressional districts. Voters selected 59 delegates — 30 for Clinton and 29 for Sanders — following a nearly tied primary election March 1. Republicans will hold district-level caucuses April 30.

At a Massachusetts 2nd Congressional District caucus in Auburn for Clinton, voters chose Roberta Goldman of Shrewsbury and Candy Mero-Carlson and Joe Carlson of Worcester as delegates.

Nearly 200 voters at a Massachusetts 1st Congressional District caucus for Sanders in Easthampton chose activist and entertainer Maurice Taylor of Holyoke, City Councilor Jossie Valentin of Holyoke and Karen Hansmann of Chicopee as delegates. Dorothy Albrecht of Holyoke was chosen as an alternate delegate for Sanders.

The remaining 32 of Massachusetts’ 91 pledged delegates — 16 for Clinton and 16 for Sanders — will be decided at the state level at conventions on May 7. The state also has 25 so-called superdelegates, who can cast ballots as they wish at the national convention.

Matt Fenlon, executive director for the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, said each event brought out hundreds of voters.

“I think both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns have done a great job of generating grassroots excitement,” Fenlon said Saturday afternoon.

An unofficial slate

LaChapelle said she likes Clinton in part due to her trip to Beijing, where she gave a speech stating that “women’s rights are human rights.”

She said that there is quite a bit of hard work ahead for the Clinton campaign, but that she feels energy behind her.

“We are marching in to Philadelphia and we will not waver,” she said. “Hillary Clinton will be our nominee.”

LaChapelle shared support with Morse and McFadden going into the event, where signs were placed on the backs of all chairs asking those present to “Vote 413 for Hillary slate” and pictured LaChapelle, Morse and McFadden.

In her speech at the caucus event, rival delegate candidate Mary Gail Cokkinias reminded those present that the slate presented to them was not “official.”

“There is no official slate,” she said. “There are three people who got together and pooled their resources.”

Seven candidates competed for the three slots as delegates at the Springfield caucus, giving two-minute speeches.

No longer an insurgent

Congressman Richard Neal, who represents the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District and supports Hillary Clinton, oversaw the Springfield event and spoke shortly after registration was complete.

Though he did not name Sanders, Neal warned those present against supporting insurgency campaigns like the one Sanders is running.

Neal said he had been part of such candidacies in the past, including for candidates George McGovern in 1972 and Ted Kennedy in 1980. He said the problem was that both candidates lost big, costing the Democratic Party the White House in those elections.

“We lost three presidential elections in a row, and not by small margins,” Neal said at the event. “By the time we got to Bill Clinton in 1992, he had figured out the formula and he was the first Democratic president to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt.”

Both Lyndon Johnson and and Harry Truman were elected again after finishing out the terms of their predecessors, who died in office, but each was only elected as president once.

“I understand what we want to do to make a statement, but friends let me tell you something — this is about the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November,” he said. “It’s about electing a president.”

McFadden and Morse both said they felt honored to be chosen as delegates at the event.

“My friends — Alex and Nicole and myself — we gathered together because we have the same values and we thought we would be great representatives of this community and we believe in Hillary Clinton,” McFadden said.

Morse said he, McFadden and LaChapelle had never been to a Democratic National Convention. He said he looked forward to representing Holyoke in a “passionate and spirited way.”

Mother and daughter Lisa and Isabel Ahlstrom of Holyoke, 57 and 18 respectively, came to their first caucus event Saturday to support Morse.

Though Isabel Ahlstrom said she supported a different candidate for president, declining to say whom, she said she is a big supporter of Morse and what he has done for the city of Holyoke.

“I feel a little bit like I’m betraying my people, but at the same time, I’m here for Alex,” she said.

Lisa Ahlstrom said she and her daughter lived in Northampton before moving to Holyoke in 2003.

“Once Alex came on the scene, we were very enthusiastic about his candidacy,” she said. “We felt like he was going to bring a new vision for Holyoke, and that was very, very important.”

‘Archaic’ delays

The Greenfield caucus, which hosted about 150 voters, was held up by a long line at the door, where members of Sanders’ campaign checked names against a long paper list of the district’s Democrats — unenrolled voters could not vote — who registered by Feb. 10.

Some in the crowd were frustrated by the lack of technology and the general slowness.

“This is outrageous,” said Sunderland delegate candidate Susan Triolo. “I have people who aren’t going to stay all afternoon.”

Lisa Mosczynski, who headed up the caucus, said the “archaic” nature of the day had to do with how long it took to get voter information from the state. They finally received the list two days ago, she said.

“There was so much interest in the primary, it added to the volume,” said Mosczynski. “We did the best we could.”

In order to be named a delegate, candidates had to receive more than 50 percent of the votes. This rule meant that each vote had to be taken multiple times — there were two ballots for the male delegates, two for the female delegate and one for the alternate.

Bedard, a counselor for mental health inmates at Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and one of those selected as a delegate at the caucus, said he’s eager to get started.

“I’m excited to get to work swaying the superdelegates in the Bernie way,” he said, adding that the Bernie way means “not being bought” in the fight for “regular working people.”

Naseem, another elected delegate, said Sanders struck her with his willingness to take stands on issues others won’t even talk about.

“I’m just so excited to represent my district and the community,” said Naseem. “I’m not going to stop until Bernie is in the White House.”

‘Bernie all the way’

In a room full of Bernie Sanders supporters, conversations often turned to the need to stay firm in that support and convince other delegates and superdelegates to turn to their side.

“It’s Bernie all the way unless he says we should do something else,” said candidate Michelle Serra of Florence before the vote.

Suzanne Patnaude, 60, of Greenfield said she considered running but instead came to vote for Sunderland candidate Triolo. Others didn’t have a strong sense of who they would vote for, promising to listen closely to their two-minute speeches.

“Bernie Sanders is my guy and I want to pick a strong selection of delegates today,” said Dinah Kudatsky, 68, of Amherst. “He’s the most significant candidate since Bobby Kennedy.”

“He’s the only person who I can see is a trustworthy person,” said Tahir Ali of Westboro.

“I support Bernie Sanders because he speaks on behalf of the 99 percent,” said Yaser Majjar, Holden resident and president of the Worcester Islamic Center.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.

Amanda Drane can be reached at adrane@gazettenet.com.