On a night of wicked Newton weather — tornado watches and intense thunderstorms — only about a dozen people showed up in Auburndale Wednesday to hear U.S. Senate candidate Marisa DeFranco speak at the latest "Coffee with the Candidates" hosted by Newton Democrats.
But DeFranco is clearly used to small groups; she even mentioned Barack Obama's strategy of working the small groups of the Democratic caucuses as a model for building support for her ideas, and stands person by person. "Building the base," as she put it.
DeFranco didn't get the turnout Brookline resident Alan Khazei got a few weeks ago, as a local guy; DeFranco's base is north of Boston, with an immigration law practice in Salem and a home in Middleton.
The audience, many of them members of the host Newton Democratic City Committee, asked about her stands on equity for women, climate change legislation, disability rights and trade policy, among other things. But a constant underlying theme to their questions was: how can Democrats in general, and DeFranco in particular, get across a message that speaks to voters? Several audience members referenced Sen. Scott Brown's success at crafting an image and speaking a simple message that elected him to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2009.
DeFranco's response: be relentless and persistent. Keep repeating the ideas and the stands until they catch on. Person by person.
She cast herself as a tireless fighter for causes she believes in. When an audience member said how discouraged she was at how money seemed to permeate and control every aspect of American politics, DeFranco's response: "What beats money is people. And ideas."
DeFranco was the last of the declared challengers for the seat currently occupied by Brown to speak at the "Coffees with the Candidates" series to help Newton Democrats learn more about the potential Democratic candidates who are seeking to unseat Brown in 2012. Bob Massie and Alan Khazei spoke recently; Newton Mayor Setti Warren is the only declared candidate yet to be scheduled.