Christy’s choice

By ADAM REILLY  |  February 22, 2006

And stumble he did, as he discussed his prospective independent candidacy last week. When the Phoenix asked Mihos to comment on the aforementioned theory — i.e., that by running as an independent, he’d only be helping the Democrats — the candidate had two good answers at his disposal. The first was pragmatic: since unenrolled voters, a/k/a independents, comprise more than half the Massachusetts electorate, an independent candidate would immediately represent the state’s biggest voting bloc. The second was idealistic: voters are sick of the status quo, tired of partisan bickering, and desperate for leaders who’ll spend their time getting things done rather than scoring political points.

Mihos chose neither. Instead, he essentially said that his only reason for running as an independent would be his inability to get a fair shake in the Republican primary. Here’s the exchange in question:

Mihos: I’ve been a Republican in the Commonwealth longer than Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey combined.... I don’t have to prove my stripes to anybody. We’re doing everything we possibly can to earn our way onto the Republican ballot by getting 15 percent in the convention.... I’ve always been a Republican. But what is troubling, to me, is that [Healey] controls the party, the party apparatus, the credentials committee. Her husband’s business partner [Darrell Crate, who works with Sean Healey at Beverly-based Affiliated Managers Group] is the head of our party. The sitting Republican governor has already come out and endorsed her. All the state senators and all the state reps have basically stood with her....

Phoenix: Your Republican allegiance is obvious. But are you also intrigued by the idea of going the independent route? If you do, would it reflect more than just your conviction that you can’t get a fair shake in the Republican Party?

Mihos: It would be that, in the final analysis, we would have determined — after doing all our due diligence, after looking at all our options — that we could not get a fair shot at the ballot by going through the convention process as a Republican. That’s all it would reflect.

Independents’ day
With all due respect, that has the makings of one weak-ass stump speech. If Mihos opts for an independent run, but keeps talking about what a good Republican he’s always been, he’s likely to be dismissed as an IINO — an Independent in Name Only. And the story line that’s already been written will likely come to pass: Mihos and Healey beat each other up targeting the same voter pool, and a yet-to-be-determined Democrat glides into the governor’s office come November.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. The raw material for Mihos to remake himself as an independent icon is there. To begin with, there’s his checkered history with the Massachusetts Republican Party. Mihos rose to public prominence as a board member at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, where he publicly challenged the Swift administration’s handling of the ballooning Big Dig budget. When Mihos and fellow board member Jordan Levy opposed a proposal to cover cost overruns by raising tolls on the Pike, Swift, who’d become acting governor when Paul Cellucci became ambassador to Canada, tried to fire the two men. In 2002, however, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Mihos and Levy, who kept their seats on the board.

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What’s Christy worth?

A lot, apparently. Mihos has promised on more than one occasion that he “won’t be outspent” in his run for governor. Since Republican front-runner Kerry Healey’s husband Sean Healey, the CEO of Affiliated Managers Group, recently sold $13 million in AMG stock, this may be Mihos’s way of saying he can spend at least that much.

But can he? In 1998, Mihos and his brother James sold their 142 Christy’s convenience stores to 7-Eleven’s parent company. Christy’s started as a single grocery store; when Christy and James took over in the late ’70s, there were about40 stores.This is the source of Mihos’s cash. (Mihos later bought back 10 stores on Cape Cod.) But because it was a private transaction, the terms of the sale remain a mystery.

He’s got more money than most of us, obviously — witness his $6.5 million home and the $5.5 million investment property located next door. Still, there’s reason to think Mihos may have allowed an exaggerated notion of his wealth to develop. Exhibit A: a $4.5 million mortgage from Citizens Bank that Mihos and his wife, Andrea, took out on their home in 2004.

Asked about this mortgage, Mihos says it’s actually a line of credit, and that he won’t need it to fund his campaign. He also backs off his vow not to be outspent. “I’m going to spend enough to be elected, okay?” Mihos says. “I won’t have to use that line of credit or sell houses or anything like that. It will certainly not be a hamster-driven campaign . . . . I’m going to spend enough to win.”

A.R.

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