State Sen. Chester Atkins (D. Concord), chairman of the state Democratic committee and the Senate's Ways and Means committee, yesterday outlined a plan to increase Massachusetts's role in selecting his party's 1984 presidential candidate.
Interviewed after a speech to an Institute of Politics study group. Atkins said his proposal would make Massachusetts one of the key states in the quadrennial Democratic sweepstakes, even eclipsing neighboring New Hampshire--considered by most observers to host the most critical New England primary.
He noted that New Hampshire has only once voted for a Democratic contender in a general election since 1932, adding. "It's outrageous that they are so important to national politics."
The senate leader's plan would switch the Bay State's current March primary to a date in the summer of 1984, when the Democratic field will have dwindled. He would also add three non-binding preference polls to periodically focus attention on Massachusetts, and establish earlier traditionally the first held nationally party caucuses to coincide with Iowa's.
Beginning Thursday night with the state Democratic dinner--which will attract all six of the party's presidential hopefuls to Massachusetts--Atkins will try to sell his plan to his fellow committee members.
Atkins said his executive position makes it difficult to back a particular candidate in the primary. "I have to run this whole show and cannot really endorse someone."
He added, however, that the endorsement of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass) could be the single most sought-after goal of the sixth Democratic contenders.