Gerry Connolly has been hosting his St. Patrick's Day event ever since he first ran for Providence District Supervisor in 1995. It has gone from just a gathering of his supporters in his home to now being held in the Kena Temple because hundreds of people are expected to attend. While this event obviously is a good fundraiser, I look at it more as a great way to support the local Democratic community and get excited about upcoming elections -- especially when you consider that there's a straw poll at the event.
Now there has always been a lot of speculation about how credible straw polls are and what they actually mean in the race. I think that depends a lot on the reputation of the event the straw poll is held at AND how the actual candidates approach the poll. The straw poll at Gerry's St. Patrick Day event has a history of producing accurate results and people tend to realize this so candidates pay attention to the race. In past years, candidates have encouraged their supporters to attend the event -- often through sending out emails or making some phone calls -- so that they could receive their vote. This has largely resulted in seeing which campaign did a better job of rallying it's supporters to the specific event. Based upon the accuracy of the results, many of the victorious candidates have been able to then use those organizing skills to win in the primaries.
Where the skepticism of straw polls comes in is sometimes candidates try to buy up a large number of tickets in order to make it look like they have a lot of grassroots support. In the past this has happened at other events, but most people respect the tradition of trying to have this event truly be a test of grassroots organizing. I truly hope that remains to be the case this year, but we shall see tomorrow evening. Hope to see you there.