WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Thousands of Democratic activists from across the state gathered Friday for the start of the party’s nominating convention.

Gov. Deval Patrick, in his final convention speech as governor, ticked off his administration’s achievements while taking a swipe at state Republicans.

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“Massachusetts is back in the leadership business,” Patrick told the convention-goers, adding that Republicans “are offering us the same tired policies from the same tired people,” an apparent reference to Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Charlie Baker, who served under former GOP governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci.

Delegates at the Worcester gathering also endorsed incumbents U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, state Secretary William Galvin and Auditor Suzanne Bump, who don’t face primary challengers.

Markey, who will face Hopkinton Republican Brian Herr in the November election, said he wants to continue fighting to toughen gun laws and tighten environmental protections.

“I take on these issues because I know that these are the fights you would fight if you were there with us,” Markey told the crowd.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recapped her effort to push through the U.S. Senate a bill that would have let college graduates refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, an effort blocked by Republicans.

“We need to fight for our Democratic candidates, every one of them,” Warren said.

The convention’s main event comes Saturday, when delegates will hear from candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer.

The most closely watched race is the five-way contest for governor. Each of the candidates — Attorney General Martha Coakley, state Treasurer Steven Grossman, business executive Joseph Avellone, former federal health care administrator Don Berwick and former homeland security officer Juliette Kayyem — needs the backing of 15 percent of delegates to secure a spot on the September primary ballot.

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A Boston Globe poll found Coakley is holding a 49 percent to 14 percent lead over her next closest competitor, Grossman, among likely Democratic voters. The poll, which included 442 likely Democratic primary voters, was conducted this month and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

There are also open races for attorney general, lieutenant governor and treasurer. The candidates face the same 15 percent rule.

The two Democrats running for attorney general are Warren Tolman, a former state senator, and Maura Healey, a former top deputy in Coakley’s office.

The Democrats running for lieutenant governor include former Department of Agriculture regional administrator James Arena-DeRosa, Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, former presidential elector Michael Lake and former Lancaster selectman Stephen Kerrigan.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the primary and as a team in the general election.

The Democratic candidates for treasurer include Wayland state Rep. Thomas Conroy, Andover state Sen. Barry Finegold and former Brookline selectman Deborah Goldberg.

To avoid some of the voting confusion that dogged the Republican state convention, Democratic party leaders said blank ballots won’t be counted. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes on the first ballot, the two top vote-getters will go head to head to see who wins the party’s endorsement.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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