Even Rickman acknowledges Gemma's idea-a-minute approach could hurt him: "He wants to tell you what he wants to do, and that's a problem in politics." Put forth detailed plans, and the media and the opposition can pick them apart; the public can get lost.

"H.L. Mencken said, never try to educate people during a campaign," says Rickman, "and Anthony doesn't know who H.L. Mencken is."

Gemma's quirky approach — if it doesn't catch on — could become an even greater liability if he manages to upset Cicilline and land in a general election fight with Republican candidate Brendan Doherty, a former superintendent of state police with an unimpeachable reputation for integrity.

No one is angry at Doherty; Gemma won't be able to declare him unfit for office. And while he would probably revert to some of the standard Democratic talking points — "any Republican you send to Congress is another vote to dismantle Social Security" — it would be difficult for Gemma to walk away from his signature ideas.

Indeed, he seems quite enthusiastic about them. But if he is, in the end, little more than a spokesman for a "wellness" plan that has failed to capture the public imagination — well, the curious Dr. Jekyll could find himself back in private practice.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at dscharfenberg@phx.com.

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