Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Healey's path to gubernatorial victory

Healey could be a contender if she's willing to break the outdated rules of politics.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

I'm listening to Newt Gingrich Tuesday morning on my XM Satellite Radio - forgive me comrades - and without his knowing it the former House speaker from Georgia was mapping out the winning strategy for Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey, who also serves in that meaningless position of lieutenant governor. Her Excellency has been on my mind of late for two reasons. First, I wish I had just the interest she earned last year on her checking account. Second, I've got Healey on the brain cells because she was just anointed at this past weekend's G.O.P. convention in Lowell, which is a great place to have a political reunion if you like visiting the many urban arm pits of the Commonwealth while the rest of us are rollerblading and planting geraniums and soaking up the rays.
The convention was about as eventful as George Bush's last I.Q. test. With no one of significance running for the other constitutional offices, there just isn't much to report except that it happened, that there were a lot of open-bar parties, and that die-hard delegates were dumb enough to rally in Lowell instead of enjoying the most beautiful spring weekend New England has seen in about twenty-five years. Oh, and yes, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card gave a speech confirming that Bush is best served without this dolt who still looks like a very parochial state rep, which he was. And, former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke gave another speech which was actually pretty decent for a guy whose one-hundred and twenty three years old.
But there is this necessary follow up to the yawner of a political weekend. Just a minor detail for all our brain cells, that being, how does this wealthy woman win in the present, turbulent political environment; with gas prices soaring and popular anxiety levels soaring with them? And that's where the Speaker grabbed me. Queried on Fox Radio about the upcoming midterm election and how his party, the G.O.P. might miraculously hold on to power and win votes, the man who took the House back for the Republicans in 1994 said the truest truism I've ever heard. He declared with positive affirmation that voters are mentally and spiritually exhausted with slick slogans and wind bag politicians. They want a complete reformation in campaign dialogue. They seek a frank, even brutally frank, discussion on the issues of the day and are poised to throw their weight behind any candidate who willfully de sanitizes the message and gets right to the "here's what we need to do," however painful that may be.
So were I to bend the receptive ear of the woman who daily lives a heart beat away from gubernatorial power and grandeur - what a rush that must be - I would whisper the following plan of attack, inspired by my new friend Newt.
First, convince Governor Mitt to resign and hand the seals of office to you, yesterday. Cajole, threaten, horse trade; do whatever it takes to become acting governor. If it worked for Boston Mayor Tom Menino - his incumbency as acting major was the pivotal factor in his stunning 1993 victory - it can work atleast a little bit at that loftier level of politics where Healey dwells. Plus, the resignation takes Mitt off the painful hook of local, media coverage - no more articles in the city's broadsheet or tabloid about the hours adnuaseum he's spending flipping hot cakes in Iowa instead of cracking lobsters at Lockobers.
Second, whether she be governor or lt. governor, Healey has to hit this gas crisis right over the head with a jack hammer proposal, Arizona style. In that sunbelt state, once upon a time, they introduced a whopping state tax rebate for anyone who purchased a hybrid vehicle. The response was huge because the tax rebate was nothing less than huge. If a big enough carrot is extended you'll see people in the Baystate waiting in line for that Toyota Prius thing, and the tax revenues the state loses will be partially compensated for by the inevitable economic tendency of taxpayers spending what they get back in an enhanced refund check.
Third, come out swinging for that windmill farm which would generate mega, mega watts in eyesight of the part-time dwelling of senior Senator Ted Kennedy. I think the contraptions are just as much a scar on the Cape Cod landscape as does the up-for-reelection Washingtonian, but his Democratic Highness opposing high-tech wind power is also quintessentially hypocritical given his decades of ranting and raving for environmentally sound alternatives to fossil fuels. Healey could actually run against Kennedy without really running against Kennedy. And what do environmentalists do - an uber voting block on Cape Cod, a region which the Republican can not afford to lose in November? They'd be compelled to support Healey just while the national press corp is admiring her for taking on the living legend of Massachusetts politics with whom the environmental lobby is none too happy with, of late. (Not so incidentally, all parties agree that the Cape wind farm would generate no less than half the electricity needs for that growing region of Massachusetts. It would be unprecedented in U.S. history)
Fourth, speaking of voltage issues, Healey need propose atleast two new nuclear power plants for the Baystate. No, I'm not losing my mind here and forget that West Wing episode a few weeks back portraying a Republican defeat due to a nuke shutdown in the fictional G.O.P. candidate's home state. That's all from the mind of mindless producers like liberal commentator and producer Lawrence O'Donnell, who refuses to take recess from his old school theologies.
I recall the first time I learned about what's commonly referred to as 'third generation nuclear power'; and it was from an unlikely source. His name was John Forbes Kerry. This guy lives at Louisburg Square from what I remember and was thinking about running for some high office; and he must have been pretty desperate for company at this boring Christmas party we were both pretending to enjoy because he struck up a conversation with little, old me that lasted about a half hour regarding his strong support for the nukes commonly built in France and Japan - so called third generation nukes. They're virtually fool proof and don't spill millions of gallons of crude along our fishing banks - neither do they spew millions of tons of black soot into our air. I guarantee you that for every ten dollar increase in the price of a barrel of crude, support for nuclear power will increase by that same number in favorable opinion polling data. As Newt advises, time to be bold. (And, yes, suddenly the Cape Cod environmentalists are completely confused and don't know what to do.)
Fifth, come out in favor of Gay marriage. Before you pass me the straight jacket - no pun intended - please consider this because it theoretically could happen. I think Healey has the courage to do it. Why? First, based on many conversations with my contacts in her campaign I sense she's more the civil libertarian at heart than her boss Romney was ever able to be and I'm told she's perfectly Gay friendly, also unlike Romney. Second, she won't lose her base. Massachusetts Republicans have been working with Gay people since Bill Weld appointed a flock during his one-plus terms in office. They won't stay at home on election day simply because Healey comes out for civil unions. This isn't a Conservative state and there's no significant Evangelical movement here. Healey's doing this does nothing less than throw the race right on its ear and guarantees her a voting block that's already proven its muscle - the Gay vote. The first Gay friendly governor of Massachusetts was Bill Weld, and he was reelected in an enviable, historic landslide, besting his opponent 71 percent to 28 percent. Get the message, Kerry?
Last, but not least, Healey needs a nothing-less-than-primo commercial on the airwaves right away that articulates these ideas and her commitment to out of the box thinking. It can't be anything like that yawner of a Chris Gabrielli spot airing presently, which takes thirty seconds to tell us the state's in turmoil without even hinting about Gabrielli the man, not even the part that he's run for office more times than Bill Rodgers has run the Boston Marathon.
Healey has the chance to do better. Picture the Republican nominee speaking along side a gas pump in Somerville articulating her plan for a $5000 state tax credit for anyone purchasing fuel efficient cars. As that little old lady from those ancient Wendy's commercials might have said, "Yup, you're showing me some beef!" And if she's acting governor and sugars this message with a plan to temporarily slashing the state gas tax she puts state house Dems in quite the pickle and probably picks up ten points minimum in popularity at the same time (Healey said on May 2 that she would consider a suspension of the state gasoline tax. The state gas tax is presently 21 cents per gallon).
The clock is ticking and the election is near. Healey has the money, and I happen to think the stamina, to be a real contender. To be a real winner, she needs ideas that shatter absolutely every rule in the business and consequently grab voters right by their heart strings, while the media is writing columns about her using words like 'bold', 'daring,' and 'original'. Her supporters see something special that was not seen when she first assumed state-wide office. "In Kerry Healey we have a candidate who is brilliant, forward thinking and not afraid to put forward new ideas," said Jan Saragoni, chairman of Women for Healey and one of the city's more savvy media consultants.
The times we live in demand new and unprecedented campaign tactics, and candidates who do not adapt to the new season we live in will not survive the coming tidal wave of popular discontent.
Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and commentator. You can reach him at and can read his blog daily at

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