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Longmeadow Daze: Town’s Top Dem Announces Exit…Her Way…

Longmeadow Daze is an occasional series about Longmeadow politics and government.

Candy Glazer announcing her retirement as chair. (WMassP&I)

An icon of the Democratic party in Longmeadow—and statewide—has announced her exit. Candy Glazer, the chair of the Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee (LDTC) has announced she will relinquish the chair on January 1.

Friends had sensed the move was coming. Some members learned last year. Glazer wanted the handover to occur with the committee at peak strength and when Longmeadow itself and the region are in line for considerable influence.

“I am overwhelmed by the response” to her announcement, she said.

Shortly before the Yankee swap at the annual holiday party, Glazer declared her intention to step down. As the LDTC executive board presented her with flowers, members gave Glazer a standing ovation.

The news became public at about 8:30pm in an email to LDTC members and supporters. In that announcement, she feted the committee’s growth to 107 members, which includes dozens of associate members beyond the LDTC’s 35 statutory members.  She then declared her full confidence in her executive board.

“When Candy floated this idea a year ago at our executive committee meeting, we weren’t as festive,” vice-chair Michele Marantz said Wednesday night.

“It was like sitting Shiva,” Michael Clark, the LDTC’s other vice-chair interjected.

Times have changed. They appear ready now.

Glazer and much of the committee appears set to rally behind Clark as Glazer’s successor—Marantz declined a co-chair due to other commitments. A top aide to State Senator Eric Lesser and former School Committee member, Clark likely faces no challenger.

The Record Shows…

The LDTC has stood out as particularly strong among Massachusetts Democratic town and city ward committees. That alone is notable, but even Longmeadow Democrats saw a surge in interest after 2016.

“People didn’t know what to do with their shock,” Glazer said in an interview. Not long after Donald Trump won the election, attendance at meetings spiked.

Longmeadow was once the paradigm of suburban Republicanism. From 1994 to 2006, no Democrats represented the town in Boston. Some federal officeholders did well, but not consistently. Mitt Romney beat Ted Kennedy there in 1994.

Congressman Neal last month. (WMassP&I)

US Representative Richard Neal, the incoming chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means Committee, said he had done well in Longmeadow. Yet, most Democrats running in districts covering the tony Springfield suburb did not experience that.

Democrats might “write off Longmeadow in the 50’s and 60’s,” he said.

Growing up outside Boston, Glazer received her early inspiration from Senator and then President John F. Kennedy. Though active in campaigns, civil rights and the anti-war movement, she established her local organizing bona fides after she and her husband Stanley moved to Longmeadow in the 1970’s. Back then, as Neal noted, Longmeadow was inhospitable territory for Democrats.

“When I first moved here, this was really a Republican village, a Republican town.” Glazer said.

Saw It through without Exemption

Glazer focused her activist background and skills from a former events business of hers to growing the committee.  In 1995 she became chair after several years as vice-chair.

“I’m a big believer that politics, leadership and activism starts at the ground up, rather than the top down,” she said. “I think that’s what we’ve achieved here in Longmeadow.”

Glazer addressing the Longmeadow Dems breakfast this year. (via Twitter/@SpfldDemsWard6

LDTC members regularly canvass for candidates and crowd the street corners near the I-91 on-ramp the Monday before Election Day. Members meticulously plan the annual breakfast which draws aspiring pols from across the commonwealth.

The LDTC also holds regular statewide candidate forums.

In 2014, a particularly busy cycle, it drew candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer. Steve Grossman, then Treasurer and running for governor, was among them. He said the LDTC developed a stature such that its forum reverberated across the commonwealth.

“I think [Glazer] was able to turn the Longmeadow Democratic committee into one of those must-go, must-attend, must-be seen, must be part of it places,” he said in an interview.

Grossman noted some candidates, like Maura Healey, effectively took off from the forum. Held in the fall of 2013, it was one of now Attorney General Healey’s earliest public events. She never forgot it.

Maura Healey addressing the LDTC in 2013 (WMassP&I)

“You all believed in this campaign and we built it together, from the first drive to Longmeadow, to the Democratic convention in Worcester, to all the polling places across the state tonight,” Healey said on primary night in 2014.

Those interviewed also noted how Glazer had kept up the pace even when elections are not imminent.

The much-anticipated breakfast falls squarely into the election cycle. But the holiday party adds a social dimension that brings members together. Pre-election discussions on ballot questions, including local bonding measures, draw crowds, as do election postmortems.

Each Charted Course

All the while, Democrats are winning Longmeadow. Although officially nonpartisan, LDTC members populate town offices. Brian Ashe was the first Democrat to join the Select Board. He later became Longmeadow’s first Democratic rep in decades, securing reelection decisively last month. Former Governor Deval Patrick won Longmeadow twice.

Senator Lesser, like Clark, is a Glazer protege. Long before he worked for former President Barack Obama, Lesser was a teenage LDTC activist.

Neal called Glazer “a force.” “She demonstrated in a high-end community that you could build a Democratic party.”

“Candy’s tenure as Longmeadow’s Chair has been exemplary,” state party chair Gus Bickford said in an email, noting her grassroots efforts in particular. “It is bittersweet that she is stepping down because her service has been so valuable to sustaining the Democratic Party in Western Mass.”

Glazer has built a profile within the national Democratic party, too. She has attended presidential inaugurations and national conventions. In 2012, she was a presidential elector for Obama. Alongside her work with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Glazer has developed contacts across the country.

Yet, she has taken pains to not let it be about her alone.

More, Much More than This

A leader cultivates successors “so it‘s not a cult of personalities,” Grossman said.

Steve Grossman speaking to the LDTC in 2013. (WMassP&I)

“Candy has identified a next generation of leadership and she was going to give them the best of what she could give them,” he continued. “People want to serve on that committee because they actually get things done.”

Neal credited her success to developing a farm team for local office and within the committee itself.

Glazer herself emphasized this as she plotted her step back. She elevated Clark and Marantz and expanded the Executive Committee. Wednesday night she showered praise on her entire executive team.

Glazer sees this as a perfect time to transition away from leadership. State elections are over and Neal’s ascension amid House Democrats success means the region will have considerable national influence.

“This is a perfect time,” she explained.

Grossman vouched for Clark, too. Grossman knows him from the latter’s time on the School Committee. As Treasurer, Grossman chaired the state school building authority and worked with Clark on the new high school.

Glazer with Michael Clark last Wednesday. (WMassP&I)

Nor is Glazer discarding her town or state committee seats. While there will be more time for grandchildren, she remains available for those looking for advice or support. As chair emeritus, she be available to assist new local leadership, too.

“Knowing Candy, she may be relinquishing her title but as Chair Emeritus, I know she’ll be continuing her tireless work for all things that are good,” Bickford wrote.

Indeed, Glazer’s experience, connections and membership on the state Democratic Committee ensure she and the LDTC will stay on statewide hopefuls’ radar.

“I’m as interested and as dedicated as I ever was,” she said.