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October 19, 2005

Who wants to be LG?

Finally, here's my rundown of our conversation with Lieutenant Governor candidate Andrea Silbert.

Her background in micro-entrepreneurship is certainly interesting. The kind of ground-level economic development that she has done requires dealing  with any number of issues that define our attitudes and aspirations as a society: Who gets opportunity? Who is left out? How does one set up small businesses -- and by extension their communities -- for success?

Silbert has concentrated especially on underserved populations -- women and "people of color". She describes this as a central and natural choice for her: "It's a moral value... It's fundamental to who we are as Democrats and who I am." Her work as a "social entrepreneur" is small-d democratic, aspiring to make use of everybody's skills and talents, regardless of status. She spent three years in Latin America dealing with small-scale economic development under conditions certainly more dire than anything we have in the Bay State. She describes her decision to run for Lieutenant Governor as a logical next step in her work, moving from a micro- to a macro-level.

How does a Lieutenant Governor accomplish those goals? Given the lack of a strict job definition, can an LG be something of a free agent diplomat of the administration? Silbert sees herself as a liaison between state government and the private sector, with an emphasis on economic development of the  urban areas outside of route 495: Worcester, Pittsfield. She touts her connections with venture capital firms to encourage job development in these areas. She is close to Deval Patrick and says she has a "nice relationship with Tom Reilly", and says she would feel comfortable working with either as governor. [Reilly may have his own ideas about a "running mate."]

Of course, I had to ask her about health care. She ingenuously asked for my thoughts on the issue; I said I supported the MassACT/Health Care for All bill. She professes not to be a health care expert, but is certainly familiar with spiraling health care costs: after benefits and taxes, a $25,000/year position becomes $40,000 in a heartbeat. With surprising openness, she briefly discussed her own not-entirely-stable situation with health insurance. It just goes to show how the issue cuts across all socio-economic levels. She is concerned that statewide health care plans not be onerous to small employers.* Small business is absolutely on the front lines of the health care debate -- her perspective and voice in the debate would be very welcome indeed.

Now, we also discussed fundraising and political viability a bit -- I have to say that I'm really not interested in the expectations game at this early stage. The candidates have to make their impressions, and I think we observers should let the chips fall where they may. I think we're still at a point where if you like a candidate, write a check.

But relevant to both politics and economic development, Silbert professes to actually enjoy fundraising. "It's an opportunity to share a vision, and give people a chance to invest in that vision."

*(By the way, I've heard John McDonough of Health Care for All speak about that exact issue: It's my distinct impression that the MassACT bill is structured so that it does not impose onerous mandates on small employers. From our interview with him: "small businesses (fewer than 100 workers) and their workers will be eligible for subsidies and support to make insurance purchase affordable." See here for more info.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 09:28 PM in Massachusetts, Vote 9.16.2006 | Permalink


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Thanks for taking this on. It's amazing how little we can glean from the MSM on aspirants to this (potentialy) important office.

Posted by: lenstewart | Oct 20, 2005 8:10:22 AM

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