By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
A political pachyderm of a man, the willowy Christy Mihos (seated with family at the right), Big whistle-blower and millionaire scion of the Christy convenience store chain, stood Republicans on their floppy ears last week with his announcement that he’s lumbering out of the party to run for governor as an independent—taking with him others in the herd, party officials fear.
In a ungainly, elephant-like performance last Wednesday during an appearance with other gubernatorial candidates at a forum sponsored by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Mihos demonstrated he may be more adept at making money and calling attention to government waste, than he is on the stump. In a not-ready-for-prime-time moment, Mihos drew uneasy attention to his wife and manly prowess—pledging, as reported in the Globe, to be brief in his forum comments, “My wife says I’m awful fast, so I’ll try to stick to that.”
But as any neophyte knows, this gubernatorial campaign—while it may unpleasant at times, even dreadful—will be anything but fast, as the field maneuvers in serpentine adjustments to the various campaign promises and proclamations. If anything, the populist and long-shot Mihos may cause Republicans and Democrats to circle the wagons in more inclusive loops, given the fact that a majority of Massachusetts voters have no party affiliation and now have an alternative in a political grazing land where no one stands out.
And that’s good for the campaign. Thinking out of the box, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, contravening her Republican boss, said last Thursday she would oppose an initiative that would permit Catholic bishops to prevent lesbians and gays from adopting children from Catholic agencies. Mihos, a life-long Republican and former board member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority who dented heads with former acting Gov. Jane Swift over toll hikes and Big Dig cost overruns, has stated that he favors adoptions by same-sex couples, gay marriage and abortion rights, in addition to tax and toll cuts.
It is clear that the private and enigmatic Healey is more vulnerable to a Mihos run, in terms of siphoned votes and fund raising, but the Yarmouth political chameleon could also press Democratic hopefuls, Attorney General Thomas Reilly and former Clinton administration civil rights lawyer Deval Patrick, more to the middle. While this doesn’t threaten the two-party system that Mihos apparently scorns, it may give insiders cause to reassess the fringe elements of both parties, which are clearly out of step with the electorate. The National Journal, for example, ranks the Massachusetts Congressional delegation last year among the most liberal in the country, with eight of ten Bay State congressmen (all males if you haven’t noticed) with a voting record more liberal than 88 percent of the House membership. Massachusetts may be more progressive than most states, but the enlightenment here is far more restrained than many of our public servants.
Perhaps Mihos may have shot himself in the foot with his sophomoric family allusions last week, but his candidacy is a bullet across the bow of Massachusetts politics.