FRAMINGHAM — State Treasurer Steve Grossman made a slew of official and unofficial stops in the eastern half of the state Monday, hitting Roxbury, Framingham, Lowell, and other locales while pitching himself as the Democrats’ answer to Charlie Baker, blending private-sector business leadership with government experience.
“[Baker is] going to say, ‘Look, I’m the job creator, I’m the guy who knows how to run state government,’ and if there are two issues at which I’m as strong as strong can be, it’s job creation and [knowing] how to run government in a way that’s effective and protects every dime of taxpayer money,” Grossman told reporters, before touring a senior center in Framingham.
Grossman also said he has a secret weapon: his 92-year-old mother, Shirley, who has voted for Democrats since FDR and helped to fund a TV commercial in which she asks viewers to “vote for Steve” and “tell him to call his mother.”
“You can’t forget the influence of Shirley Grossman,” he said, wishing he “had a $10 bill for every time somebody mentioned my mother in the last two days.”
Case in point: “Have you seen my mother on television?” Grossman asked a group of women playing mah jongg upstairs at the senior center.
“Oh yes,” said Peg Henry, a retired nurse practitioner, remembering the closing line of the commercial. “Say hi to your mother!”
Grossman is running in a three-way Democratic primary for governor, against frontrunner Attorney General Martha Coakley and former Medicare and Medicaid chief Don Berwick.
Grossman moved through the center in the relaxed, loose-limbed manner of an underdog who believes he is closing in on the leader, stopping to ask questions as well as shake hands, weaving policy plans – to restore arts and culture funding to 1980s levels, to address the opioid crisis with better behavioral and mental health services – with laughter and lessons he has learned on the trail, like never to interrupt a bingo game.
In the hallway, Medicare counselor Jerry Shusterman approached the candidate and pledged his vote. “I appreciate that,” Grossman said.
“And my wife’s too,” Shusterman said.
“Even better,” Grossman said. “And let some of your friends know, because we’ve just learned today that the polls have narrowed dramatically.”
He told Shusterman the key to closing the gap would be rallying Democrats who remain undecided and independent, or unenrolled, voters who can vote in either party primary.
In Lowell, Grossman held a roundtable with Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank executives, local officials, and business owners, thanking the bank for its matching participation in the Small Business Banking Partnership he established as treasurer, to help make more capital available for small businesses – by depositing state reserve funds in community banks.
“As treasurer, you’ve managed to change people’s perception of government,” said Sam Poulten, owner of Lowell radio station WCAP, which refinanced a loan through the program and used the interest savings to purchase new equipment, praising Grossman for his “what can I do to help?” attitude.
But for every Poulten or Shusterman, there were others — at the senior center, or shaking hands outside the Tewksbury Market Basket — who hadn’t followed a primary that has failed to electrify the state, scratching their heads even after Grossman introduced himself and asked for their vote.
“What’s his name,” one woman at the senior center cafeteria asked, after Grossman had moved upstairs to the Scrabble and bridge room, “Kevin Galvin?”