Christy’s choice

By ADAM REILLY  |  February 22, 2006

Mihos made Swift pay for her gaffe, suing her in federal court for an alleged civil-rights violation. (The suit was settled last year, for approximately $200,000). For good measure, he also helped orchestrate her political demise by working behind the scenes to draft Mitt Romney as the GOP’s 2002 candidate for governor. In 2004, however, Romney opted not to reappoint Mihos to the Turnpike board — and today, asked to grade the governor’s performance, Mihos suggests a “C.”

Mihos also senses that transcending the two-party system could create new political possibilities. After referencing the examples of Angus King and Lowell Weicker — independents who were elected governor in Maine and Connecticut, respectively — he spoke of “bringing Democrats together, and just taking the whole partisan politics and that narrowness of ideology out of the equation.” (He’s also vowed not to take any money from PACs or lobbyists.)

Then there’s Mihos’s own heterodoxy when it comes to the issues traditionally used to situate candidates on the left or right. He’s pro-gay-marriage, but thinks it should be voted on statewide. He’s emphatically pro-choice, an unapologetic death-penalty supporter, a card-carrying National Rifle Association member. And he’s determined to finish implementing the voter-approved income-tax rollback, which would reduce the state’s income tax to five percent. As Mihos himself puts it, “If you look at where I stand on the issues, on the social side of it, it’s not lock-down Republican-south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line issues. I certainly think that would give me an equal shot at Republican and Democratic voters.”

He may be right. Suppose the Democrats nominate Deval Patrick, who’s voiced his opposition to rolling back the income tax to five percent. Supporters of Tom Reilly — who favors a tax rollback, and has played the social moderate to Patrick’s social liberal — might just decide that Mihos is a) a reasonable alternative to their party’s nominee and b) a far better option than Kerry Healey. Suppose, conversely, that Reilly storms back to win the nomination. Among liberal Democrats, zeal for Patrick is almost matched by antipathy toward Reilly. Some of them, too, would likely make much the same choice — unless Mihos keeps pining for the Mass GOP, and makes it impossible for disgruntled Democrats to support him in good conscience.

Thanks to state election deadlines, Mihos has until March 7 to decide whether he’s running as an independent or a Republican. But there’s really no reason to wait that long. Sticking with the GOP means heading to almost certain defeat in a primary that’s stacked against him, something Mihos knows full well. Running as an independent, meanwhile, would turn him into an ally of most Massachusetts voters, position him to nab support from every end of the political spectrum, and pave the way for a buzz-generating insurgent candidacy.

First, though, Mihos needs to realize that running as an independent isn’t just a fallback option. And if he can’t get excited about the possibility, he’s probably not the right man for the job.


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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.”


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