Mass. Dem operatives to play key roles in Philly


BOSTON >> Bay State Democratic operatives will be working hard in Philadelphia next week, aiming for a flawless prime time political show as the party nominates Hillary Clinton for president.

Stephen Kerrigan, who was CEO of the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and ran for lieutenant governor in Massachusetts in 2014, said the Bay State is a reservoir of behind-the-scenes political talent.

"Massachusetts exports two great things: Cranberries and political hacks," Kerrigan told the News Service in a phone interview. "And I count myself among them, so maybe say 'operatives' instead of 'political hacks.'"

The writer's room — where speeches are drafted and rewritten and fact-checked and "shaved" for time — is run by Jeff Nussbaum, who is from Weston, along with Kenneth Baer, according to Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat who worked in the DNC writer's room four years ago.

"You're orchestrating and producing a live television show," Lesser told the News Service. He said even high-level elected officials lack experience giving speeches in front of such a massive audience, and the timing of each speech leading up to the main attraction is carefully tracked to ensure the convention stays on time.

Once a presidential candidate emerges as the presumptive nominee, as Clinton did this spring, the convention defers to that victorious campaign on big decisions, Kerrigan said.

Charles Baker III, a Massachusetts Democrat and co-founder of Dewey Square Group is the Clinton campaign's chief administrative officer, and Lesser said Baker — not to be confused with the state's Republican governor — is coordinating operations at the convention for Clinton.

Andrew Binns, who Kerrigan said is from Dorchester and was chief information officer four years ago at the Charlotte, N.C. convention, has been named chief innovation officer for the convention in Philadelphia.

A former staffer to the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy who attended his first convention more than 20 years ago, Kerrigan said technological advancements are the biggest change on the operations side from convention to convention.

"The app store had launched a week before the Denver convention" when President Barack Obama was first nominated, Kerrigan said. He said this year's DNC app will probably have a broader reach than the more "utilitarian" app the party had four years ago, which was designed for attendees.

Other staffers from Massachusetts — anonymous and invisible to the millions who will tune in to coverage of the event — work in "podium operations," which includes a variety of backstage responsibilities to keep the program running smoothly, and "speaker tracking" - tending to the needs of the officials who will take the stage, Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan, who will be helping Clinton's "whip" operation as liaison from the campaign to delegates, has been watching the Republican National Convention, where Donald Trump accepted his party's nomination Thursday night, with an eye for the craft.

"It's very typical for Donald Trump and very different for conventions," Kerrigan said.

Planners need to "maximize" their time on television as the networks follow rules that require equal time for each party's convention, Kerrigan said. He expects "enhanced coverage" of the Democratic National Convention because of events running long in Cleveland where Republicans met this week.

This year puts Democrats in a position unique for the party in the modern era with a sitting president and vice president, neither of whom is running for the office. Kerrigan said the number of top officials who will need speaking time this year will create a time-crunch, and he wondered whether coveted slots — such as convention chair and "keynote" speaker — will be filled at all.

The president, vice president, first lady and the nominee's spouse — himself a former president known for lengthy addresses — are all slated to speak.

"You have a lot more pressure on prime time than we've ever had before," said Kerrigan.


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