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Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Tale of Two Kickoffs

There's a name that's never spoken, There's a mother's heart half broken; Just another face that's missing from the old home, that is all. There's a memory still living; There's a father, unforgiving, There's a picture that is turned toward the wall.
Song by Charles Graham, 1929

He went to bed John MCain. He woke up Ross Perot.

Christy stood in front of the State House today, and announced his candidacy for Governor as an Independent. Well, really, he had already confided his secret to the Boston Globe, WBZ, the Mass. Biotechnology Conference, Howie Carr and a few close friends - but nobody that would ruin the surprise. He stood in the dark and cold, alone except for his wife, Andrea, and a few boisterous supporters. Mihos, although active in government and politics for decades, has never actually run for political office before - and his campaign staff quit in the wake of the controversial Holly Robichaud's departure, saying that his naivete about the logistics of a campaign was too great for him to be successful.

Across town, Lt. Gov. Kerry stood with four other Governors - , , and - and described how she would go about becoming the fifth. The posh mezzanine of the Park Plaza held about two hundred guests, all of them enthusiastic about Healy's candidacy. Each Governor stepped up to the poduim, and stated their support for Healey, to the applause of the assembled group. Then, after a brief description of current legislative issues, Healey turned to them, and described the quality she would most like to take away from each of them - Cellucci, his fierce loyalty; Swift, her courage under fire; Weld, his sense of humor (at which point, Big Red wiped his brow and stage-whisperd, 'Phew! Could have been a LOT worse!"), and from Romney, his strength of character. She has evolved into a compelling public speaker in the last four years. Healey had at least run for office before she was elected Lt. Governor, in an unsuccessful Congressional campign, giving her a polish and learning experince that both Mihos and Duval Patrick lack.

Even as the Grabauskas vs. Herzfelter 2002 primary was a waste of talent, so is this split in the Party. Mihos had the capacity to intrigue and engage unenrolled and disenchanted Democrat voters in the same way that John McCain had in 2000. Now, Mihos' immediate problem is to get 10,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. When the nomination papers are returned, Porcupine wagers that most of the signatures will have come from gleeful Democrats, happy to enroll him as a spoiler, with no intention of voting for him next November. The naivete is telling.

As far as hot-button issues go, Healey and Mihos are just about the same. Both are pro-choice. Both favor a return to the death penalty. Both are strong supporters of the income tax rollback. Both are rather Rockefeller Republicans, socially moderate and fiscally conservative - which is where most voters fall as well. The difference between them is style and focus. Healey is trained in criminal justice, and the legal system and education are her strongest priorities, with the relationship between the state and the various towns a close second. Mihos is a contrarian, an accord-breaker, always on the lookout for the shady deal or the wasted penny. The contrast between their priorities is interesting, as both have a strong vision of what government should, and should not, be involved with. Now, we will not have them oppose one another directly, but as part of a triangle with a player to be named later who has the enviable position of having two well heeled opponents bent on destroying one another while he sits back and lets them go at it.

How did a lifelong Republican morph into Ross Perot? Did he feel slighted by Mitt Romney, the man he personally recruited for the Mass. Governor's race? Did he decide that he was tired of being told it wasn't his turn yet? Perhaps he can have a quiet talk with Sec. of State Bill Galvin on that score. Better still, he could run for the office he was born for, that of State Auditor. By temperment and by inclination, he would be an outstanding public servant to safeguard our money.

The contrast between the two events says it all - the Mass. GOP faithful will work hard for Kerry Healey, and will help her become the first woman to be elected Governor of the Commonwealth in her own right. Mihos will run a scrappy, witty and ultimately doomed campaign, trying to get his ideas heard above a cold wind, and wondering why the voters aren't more excited about his candidacy.

Christy Mihos, as a longtime Republican party member, knows better than anyone that GOP elephants have long and unforgiving memories. He has taken a step off a steep cliff, and there is no happy ending to this story. As a third party candidate, he may well deliver the Corner Office into the hands of the Democrat Party, taking away even a nominal foot off the brake of the careening Legislative jalopy. The very best thing that could happen is that Gov. Healey could appoint him to another state board and make use of his intelligence and drive.

But I wouldn't count on it.


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