Murray is clearly the smoothest retail politician in the field, and with the endorsement of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, he also looks to be organized labor’s favorite in the race. (Goldberg has been endorsed by five union locals, including the Boston and Brookline firefighters; Silbert’s sole endorsement, from the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, probably won’t sway the race.) But Silbert’s second-place finish at June’s Democratic convention — and the fact that she’s raised about $900,000 to date, more than either of her rivals — shows that she, too, has a real shot at the nomination.
To some extent, Silbert’s successes so far suggest that her message — which casts job creation as a kind of public-policy panacea — is resonating with voters. (On the stump, Silbert talks up her work at the Center for Women and Enterprise, which she co-founded and ran; by the candidate’s reckoning, she helped create 14,000 jobs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.) But other factors may be helping Silbert as well. She comes across as the smartest candidate, intellectually speaking, in the field — no surprise, given her educational pedigree. (Silbert has degrees from Harvard College, Harvard Business School, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.) She also emphasizes environmental issues more than her competitors; this month, she’ll embark on a whistle-stop kayak tour of Massachusetts waterways.
In addition, Silbert’s international experience is unique in the field: in her 20s, she quit a financial-analyst job in Manhattan to do development work in Latin America, working at one point with street children in Brazil. And unlike Murray (who’s made a career of politics) and Goldberg (who’s flat-out loaded — more on that later), Silbert, who lives in Harwich, credibly casts herself as a representative of Massachusetts’s struggling middle class. “My husband is an artist and designer running a small business out of our house,” she says. “We know firsthand about a lot of issues because of how we live our lives.… We currently buy our own health insurance. We have a plan that costs $600 a month and gives us virtually no coverage. I’m a working mother of three kids, and I have a very typical middle-class family.”
The rich one
Which brings us to Goldberg, who, for better or worse, can’t make the same claim. Goldberg hails from the clan that gave Massachusetts Stop & Shop, and ran the company until it succumbed to a hostile takeover. And thanks to this lineage, she’s very, very wealthy.
Whether this will help or hurt her candidacy is an open question. In a much-discussed video at June’s Massachusetts Democratic Convention, Goldberg tried to treat her Stop & Shop ties with a light touch, telling delegates that all the jobs she’d done in the supermarket while growing up had prepared her for the State House. (Example: since she’d once minded the candy counter, Goldberg would know how to handle special interests.) The video was not well-received; today, Goldberg seems to consider it a mistake. “It was an idea of our media adviser at the time,” Goldberg tells the Phoenix. “It’s not what I probably would have done, but I felt that he was more experienced than I was … You learn by putting yourself out there. No one in life is perfect.”