Monday, July 22, 2024

My name is Harriotte Hurie Ranvig. I’m a lifelong Democrat and former “add-on” member of the Democratic State Committee, for which I served in the “disability” category because I have been blind since age 14.

I want to address the intentionally misleading attacks on Rand Wilson’s character by Justin Klekota, the incumbent 2nd Middlesex state committee representative.

Incumbents usually attack their opponents when they become a threat. Apparently, Wilson has become a serious threat to Klekota, because every message he sends refers to Wilson’s “divisive and discriminatory” campaign. In an amazing twist of words, Klekota has pandered for votes by trying to associate Wilson with Maga Republicans.

Klekota’s accusations are rooted in a fundamental but nuanced disagreement over how the Democratic Party should be run. Wilson believes the party should be more accountable to its grassroots base. Because of that he has proposed that a majority of its representatives be elected, not appointed. Klekota supports the current system of what I have experienced as cronyism via appointment by the committee.

It’s not widely known that 149 members of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee members hold lifetime positions, and 91 members are self-nominated and elected internally by the committee. As the committee has 414 members, this means that 58 percent – that is, 149 plus 91 – are unelected. This system makes the party undemocratic and prevents the growth and energy needed for us to make true democratic change.

Klekota says that because Wilson has proposed that at least 51 percent of committee members should be elected – not even all – he is calling for a “segregated voting process.”

But what Klekota doesn’t say – and what I know firsthand as a disability delegate – is that he is advocating for a “segregated appointment process” in which party leaders basically decide who represents historically marginalized people, all while obscuring his intentions of maintaining the status quo that favors lifelong unelected members.

I agree with Wilson: It’s possible to have both democracy and diversity. We can still have positions designated for marginalized groups in our “big tent” party and have them elected instead of appointed. I know this is true because every single city and town Democratic committee in Massachusetts has one or more elected diversity chairs. Everyone can participate and everyone can be held accountable to voters, just as we expect of all our elected officials.

This is not the first time Klekota chose to smear his opponents rather than highlight his accomplishments. He lost his bid for City Council in 2021 by a sizable margin after he attacked his opponents with the same misleading tactics he is employing against Wilson. Later, as Somerville Ward 7 Democratic Committee chair, he ran into trouble with the same members who previously elected him, due to accusations of discrimination. He only kept his position when the Democratic establishment that he is now protecting overruled the will of the majority of the committee.

These are the tactics that make Democratic voters stay home instead of turning out for elections. If there is one thing I learned in my decades of organizing for civil rights, it’s this: People aren’t inspired to vote by negativity, and they do not like playing in a rigged game.

Wilson has run a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter most to our district’s diverse constituency. That is why he is endorsed by two state representatives, the majority of the Somerville and Medford city councils, and many Ward 7 Democrats who have worked directly with Klekota.

Wilson is my neighbor, a friend, and an amazing organizer dedicated to creating a more inclusive and just society.  I urge 2nd Middlesex district voters in Somerville, Cambridge, Medford and Winchester to set the record straight and vote for Wilson on March 5, during voting in the presidential primary.

Harriotte Hurie Ranvig, Davis Square, Somerville

This letter was updated Feb. 28, 2024, to correct the wording of a sentence describing a controversy on the Somerville Ward 7 Democratic Committee,