By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
WORCESTER -- At their election-year convention, delegates from across Massachusetts on Saturday agreed to place all three Democrats on the primary ballot in the wide open race for state treasurer.
Deb Goldberg, of Brookline, Rep. Thomas Conroy, of Wayland, and Sen. Barry Finegold, of Andover, all cleared the 15 percent threshold of delegate support, enabling them to continue their campaigns.
Party officials said 4,609 party registered delegates traveled to Worcester for a convention that brought together party insiders to judge and rally around their slate of candidates ahead of the fall elections.
After a first round of voting that stretched on for four hours, it was announced that Goldberg had earned 38.9 percent of the 4,299 votes cast, Conroy 33.9 percent, and Finegold 27.1 percent. At 7 p.m., in an announcement that drew cheers, party chairman Tom McGee said Goldberg and Conroy agreed not to force a second ballot "in recognition of the long day" leaving the party without a formally endorsed candidate for treasurer.
While they riled the party faithful in the DCU Center, the treasurer candidates have yet to connect with voters.
In a Suffolk University poll taken June 4-7 of 800 likely Massachusetts voters, 74 percent said they were undecided when asked if they were leaning towards voting for Conroy, Finegold or Goldberg. Among those who had a preference, 10.7 percent chose Goldberg, 8.4 percent Finegold and 4.4 percent Conroy.
Financial services executive Michael Heffernan of Wellesley is unopposed running as a Republican this year for treasurer.
In Massachusetts, the state treasurer handles a variety of sometimes unrelated duties, overseeing the state lottery, employee retirement and school construction programs, running the state's cash and borrowing programs, and chairing a board that manages state pension fund investments.
In the days since Democrat Robert Crane released his long stranglehold on the office, its occupants have tried to use the office as a launching pad, a place to set up shop and then run for higher office.
Counting the current treasurer candidate for governor Steven Grossman, the last four treasurers have run for governor. Tim Cahill and before him Shannon O'Brien and Joseph Malone all came up short in their bids to leap from one statewide office to another.
The three Democrats vying for treasurer this year kept their focus on the office they're running for on Saturday, but each of them has attempted before to run for higher office: Finegold for Congress, Goldberg for lieutenant governor and most recently, Conroy's brief run for U.S. Senate in 2012.
After thanking supporters who included Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, Boston Councilor Tito Jackson and Taunton Sen. Marc Pacheco, Goldberg pledged to "combat social inequality."
"Economic empowerment, economic security, economic stability, they're not just buzzwords to me," Goldberg said. "They are the way we break down barriers for those who deserve much more."
Goldberg pledged free tax preparation for low-income families and a "robust" financial literacy program that she said would help ensure that families don't fall into serious debt to pay for college. Noting savings plans increase the likelihood that kids will attend college, she also said she would start a savings plan for kindergarteners "paid for by the banks, not taxpayers."
Goldberg also focused on wage inequality, saying women make 70 cents on the dollar compared to men, with African-American women making 64 cents and Latina women 52 cents. "This is not just a women's issue," she said. "It is a family issue and from day one it will be my issue as your treasurer."
After a "takeover" separated her from her family business, Stop and Shop, Goldberg said she turned to public service. The former chair of the Brookline Board of Selectmen, Goldberg is the president of Adoptions with Love. She has an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and a law degree from Boston College.
Union support figured strongly in Goldberg's remarks, as she pointed to support from the 55,000-member MassRetirees, and unions representing firefighters, painters and utility workers.
Conroy has 16 years of experience in the finance and risk management industry and since 2007 has served as a member of the Massachusetts House, where he co-chairs the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. After graduating from Yale University, he worked for U.S. Sens. Gary Hart and Barbara Mikulski. Conroy earned a master's degree in international economics from Johns Hopkins in Washington D.C and an MBA in finance from Boston University.
Former Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez, now an insurance executive with CeltiCare, introduced Conroy, praising his "financial expertise" and "true progressive values."
"I know that he can do the job and he will do it well," said Gonzalez.
If elected, Conroy said he would help match unemployed workers with new skills and new jobs, help them access loans and credit, and help ensure retirement benefits are there for "every public servant."
"As Democrats, we don't want an economy that says greed is good. We want an economy that serves the greater good," he said.
Conroy featured his triplet daughters who recently graduated from high school both to make the point that he understands the challenge of paying for college and, through a video, to let his daughters explain how he helped them learn as children to divide their money between savings, spending and charity.
"I'm Tom Conroy and I have triplets and I'm running for state treasurer," Conroy said in his video.
Conroy also recalled his father returning from the Vietnam war and struggling with his wife to raise five sons and put them through college with the help of government loans. "Today, hard work doesn't always guarantee success. Our economy has changed," Conroy said.
Among his pledges, Conroy said he would provide all children with early education, deliver financial literacy training, and use the treasurer's office to build pre-kindergarten classrooms and build energy efficient schools.
Like other Democrats, Conroy emphasized his support for giving Massachusetts the highest minimum wage of any state. "No one working full-time should be living in poverty and our workers deserve more of the wealth that comes from our own labor," he said.
Finegold was raised in Andover and Tewksbury, graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, and became an Andover selectman at 24 years old. A year later, in 1996, he won election to the House, and in 1998 he graduated from Massachusetts School of Law in Andover. Finegold co-chaired the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, and won election to the Senate in 2010. He has co-chaired the Committee on Election Laws since 2011, helping recently to pass an early voting law. He is a partner at Dalton & Finegold in Andover, a firm he founded when he was 29.
Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, Sen. Gale Candaras, District Attorney Sam Sutter and Sen. Harriette Chandler introduced Finegold, who offered a video featuring support from his Senate colleagues.
Finegold made trust a centerpiece of his presentation. "He has proven he will be a treasurer who you can trust," Sullivan said in his introduction. Then Finegold opened, "My name is Barry Finegold and I'll be a treasurer you can trust."
In a video, Sen. Ken Donnelly noted Finegold as a state representative opposed the death penalty "even though he knew it would be difficult in his re-election" and Finegold later portrayed himself as a fighter. "I won't back down from a fight no matter what's at stake or how much I might lose," Finegold said.
The son of parents who were both school teachers, Finegold pledged to divest pension fund investments in fossil fuels and make more investments in wind and solar energy, to protect retirement benefits of public employees, and to champion financial literacy.
"Let's make college affordable for everyone," he said.