Longtime Democratic activist Deb Goldberg banking on youthful field ops in state treasurer nomination fight
By Jim Therrien, Berkshire Eagle Staff
PITTSFIELD -- In her campaign for state treasurer, Deb Goldberg is banking on a strong, youthful field organization, which she credits with her high vote total at the Democratic State Convention in June.
"I was fighting to get my 15 percent and I won the convention, convincingly," Goldberg said. "So we have the same exact approach. It was a very grass-roots centered approach, and we got 39 percent of the [convention] vote."
The longtime Democratic activist, Brookline selectwoman and member of the family that founded Stop & Shop markets, is facing off with state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and Sen Tom Conway, D-Wayland, for the party’s nomination for treasurer.
All three qualified for the Sept. 9 primary ballot by gaining more than 15 percent of the total convention vote. The winner will likely be opposed in the Nov. 4 election by Republican Mike Heffernan of Wellesley.
During a recent visit to The Eagle newsroom, Goldberg stressed her experience working at and helping to manage Stop & Shop, her background in finance and economic issues, and her role as a public official in Brookline, where she has worked with the employee pension system and was involved in union contract negotiations and other issues at a local level.
The job of state treasurer "brings together my background and skills in finance," she said, and provides opportunities to effect positive change to benefit state residents.
Her career as an activist for Democratic causes, Goldberg said, dates to an early age. "In 1961, when Michael Dukakis ran for state representative, I was a 7-year-old put outside in a snowsuit as one of his mascots, going poll to poll and asking people to vote for Mike Dukakis," she said.
Later, she helped her father in campaigns for local office and then became a selectwoman. Today, Goldberg said, she remains a member of the Brookline representative town meeting, where she proudly supported recently enacted bans on polystyrene containers and plastic shopping bags.
As an elected Democratic State Committeewoman, Goldberg said she isn’t content to follow politics from afar but often gets out to events and meetings of party members and others whenever she can.
"I am driven by the fact I fundamentally believe government has a positive role to play in people’s lives," she said. "And I have been a Democrat my whole life, and I will always be a Democrat and fight for those values."
The job of overseeing the public employee pension funds and managing state finances presents an exciting challenge, Goldberg said, adding, "And yet it also has an area where you can do really positive public policy things."
Those include helping school districts bridge the gap between what the state provides in reimbursements for school construction and the actual cost of providing school facilities for 21st century learning.
Goldman also would promote financial literacy programs within existing school curriculum for students and push a college savings initiative to open accounts for every kindergarten student in the free lunch program with funds coming from bank fees.
"I would do this without funding from the Legislature, without unfunded mandates," she said.
She also said the position could provide "a bully pulpit" to advocate for education reforms, such as all-day kindergarten and universal pre-school.
On the casino gambling issue, Goldberg said she favors repeal of the enabling legislation through a referendum question on the Nov. 4 ballot that seeks to overturn the casino law. Citing an experience from her youth of a family member who became addicted to gambling, she said she also has concerns about the state lottery. But she would work to increase lottery revenue while trying to lessen its impact on problem gamblers.
Goldberg said her experience with a family-run market business gives her a rapport with owners of small stores likely to bear the brunt of any dip in lottery revenue if casinos are allowed. She said she can help reassure owners the state won’t abandoned them.
The small store owners, many of them recent immigrants, "are fearful of the impact on traffic will have on them," she said. "I say my family is your family. My family started a small market in the North End of Boston which grew into a large company."
Goldberg also said the lottery "was the devil’s deal that was made when [Proposition] 21Ž2 was brought in." She said the restriction on annual tax revenue increases made for what business owners would see as "illogical" budgeting.
"What business person believes you should raise your revenue by 21Ž2 percent plus new growth if your costs go up 10 percent?" she said. "To me, that’s illogical."
Another issue she would stress, Goldberg said, is wage equality for women. "I have worked with Evelyn Murphy on the institutional and cultural reasons [for wage inequality] and how to reverse," she said.
The former lieutenant governor now heads The WAGE Project, which combats wage discrimination against women.
"I want to lead on the nuts and bolts of getting it down," Goldberg said, citing wage gap statistics that women in the state earn on average about 77 cents to every dollar men earn.
"It is really a family issue, a societal issue I care deeply about," she said, adding that she would begin with an assessment of salaries in the treasurer’s office, which employs about 800 people.
Goldberg also advocated a state-owned bank in Massachusetts, which would be the second in the nation after North Dakota. That state weathered the financial meltdown and recession better in part because it had a state bank because it focused on policies that enhance the state and its economy, she said.
Goldberg, 60, is a graduate of Boston University, Boston College Law School and Harvard Business School.
In 2006, she was a candidate in the 2006 in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
Her family controlled Stop & Shop Inc. from its founding under a family name in late 1900s until losing control in the late 1980s in a leveraged buyout. Goldberg said the business was the victim of a "hostile [stock] takeover" in part because the family refused to slash employment during an economic downturn.
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