Christy the Optimist

Ladies and gentlemen, Christy Mihos's multifacted running mate is...

John J. Sullivan, town moderator of Winchester, chairman of the Winchester Cooperative Bank, and former Navy officer.

Yeah, I'd never heard of him either.

But Christy is excited about the pick. In fact, he's excited about his campaign in general, even though--to most outside observers--it doesn't really seem to be catching fire. Yesterday afternoon, Mihos chatted with me about the state of his candidacy, the outcome of the Democratic convention, the muted public response to Proposition One, and Mitt Romney's latest anti-gay-marriage stunt, among other things. Here's an edited transcript:

Q. What’s your take on where your campaign is at this point in time?

A. Well, since I’ve never run for governor before, I’ll have to take it from two people that are counseling us: Lowell Weicker, the former Republican and then independent governor of Connecticut, and Angus King, the twice-elected independent governor in the state of Maine. And both say that they’ve never seen a camp shoot up with numbers like we’ve had, and that the number of volunteers--that we’ve been invited to every single debate, and every single forum, and that we’re as much of a player as anybody else is. So  I’m thrilled. I highly recommend this to everyone, to run for governor! It’s the most incredible experience. Because people genuinely love this state. People who’ve drawn a line in the sand--I’m staying here, I’m fighting for it--love the state, and want to see it better. So it’s just been a wonderful experience so far.

Q. How many volunteers do you have?

We’ve exceeded five hundred, that we can call on at any time. And look, that may not seem a lot to the Democrats or the Republicans, but we don’t have party. Fifty percent of us are unenrolled, and we call ourselves independent, but there’s no party structure with town committees. So we feel pretty happy with what we have right now. And we’re out every single day, recruiting more. So it just grows a little bit every day.

Q. Give me your take on the outcome of the Democratic convention last weekend.

A. I think getting three candidates on the ballot is wonderful for the process. They’re all good candidates, certainly, and the more the merrier. The more events, forums, debates that we have, it just inures to the benefit of the taxpayers.

Would one of the three be hardest for you to run against in the general election?

A. They’re all good candidates, and they all bring a little bit of a different perspective to it. Certainly Tom [Reilly] has been around for many years. Deval [Patrick] is starting to bring forth some specific points about the impressionistic ways [sic] that he’s talked about in the past. And Chris [Gabrieli] has been--you know, I like sitting next to Chris, and it’s been a very engaging conversation any time he’s there.

About your poll numbers: your numbers looked really good when you first got in the race, and then you started to stagnate a little bit. Does that worry you?

We’re anywhere from 16 to 22 percent, is what I see on the different polls. And when they drill down and they talk bout where we are on certain issues, we go much higher; we’re usually second when it comes to us, Reilly and [Lieutenant governor and Republican nominee Kerry] Healey. It doesn’t really bother me, because although we’ve done radio, wee haven’t done TV as of yet. And they’re being produced as we speak [by Bill Hillsman, a Minnesota-based ad guru who’s created spots for Paul Wellstone, Jesse Ventura and Ralph Nader]. The things he’s doing for us, they’ll knock your socks off. We’d like them to go up between now and July 4th.

Q. Has running for governor been harder than you would’ve thought? I’m thinking of that debate where R.D. Sahl asked you for one sentence to finish up, and you had to go with, “Thank you.”

A. It’s physically demanding and exhausting, but the mental aspect of it--it’s just so liberating. First of all, it’s liberating being an independent, because I don’t have to worry about who I’m going to piss off in my party. So you say whatever’s on your mind. And you know I’m not taking any special-interest money, so I’ve left that whole traditional way of funding campaigns by the wayside. It’s energizing; it’s uplifting. When you look in someone’s eyes, and they say, Don’t let us down, we’re counting on you... To me, that is a humbling, humbling group of words for someone to say, and to mean it. This is the most incredible experience that I’ve ever had in my life.

Q. Proposition One--that hasn’t created the buzz I expected.

If you go to as many events [as] we go to, and you have young people trying to buy a home, or elderly people that want to stay in their home, or middle-class people that have had it--you have no idea. You have no idea how spot-on they are with this issue. The fact that the editorial pages aren’t picking it up or criticizing it, or that the other candidates aren’t saying anything about it, that has no bearing on me whatsoever. They all know--they all know right now that this state is unaffordable, and unless it becomes affordable, we’re going to be relegated to a Rust Belt state. If you’re a family, and you have a lot of kids in school, and you’re paying for busing and extracurricular activity fees and everything, you know about Proposition One. If you’re a union member in City Hall, or a teacher or a healthcare provider out there, working with cities and municipalities, you know about Proposition One, because it’s going to return money back to local aid. And if you’re a homeowner, you want to cut the increases. My property taxes on the Cape have doubled over the last two years. Doubled!

For the last two years, the state has run billion-dollar budget surpluses. There happens to be $1.7 billion sitting in the rainy-day fund.. So we don’t have a revenue problem. The problem, for me as a candidate and as a taxpayer, is that the money is going to go to the spec interest. Let me give you just 2 examples. In the state senate, on the budget, there were 949 amendments filed--24 per senator. The Red Sox are going to get $36 million to upgrade the area in and around Fenway Park. The Turnpike Authority is going to get $31 million for who knows what. So instead of it coming to Springfield or Worcester or Boston or Fall River, to fund police or whatever, it’s staying up there, and the special interests are going to get it. The special interest will always get it, as long as it’s sitting up there.

Q. What’s your take on Mitt Romney urging the U.S. Senate to ban gay marriage?

A. I mean... You know where I am on gay marriage. This thing is just--it’s getting out of hand. It’s the law of the Commonwealth, and unless people want to change it it’s the law of the Commonwealth, and my sense is that people will vote overwhelmingly to keep the law as it is.

Q. So you think those decisions should be left up to individual states?

A. Absolutely. As local as you can get the decisions, that’s where the decisions should be made.

Q. Was it right to name the Tip O’Neil Tunnel the Tip O’Neil Tunnel, as opposed to the Liberty Tunnel, which was Governor Romney's prefered choice?

A. Look, that tunnel would never be there if it wasn’t for Tip O’Neil. But I’ll say this: Tip was a big spender, but he would be shocked, shocked, that his $2.3 billion project in late 80s and early 90s is now going to eclipse $15 billion. My only issue with naming it at the time is this: let’s name it for Tip after we get the leaks plugged. Let’s name it for Tip after all the arrests and indictments and convictions have been adjudicated. Let’s name it for Tip after it’s done. Let’s name it for Tip after we get some semblance of good management practices at the Turnpike Authority, and can say that we can drive through that tunnel and it’s safe. That’s when you name a tunnel after a great man like Tip O’Neil. You don’t do it now.

Just to get back to the gay-marriage question--this happens to be Massachusetts. It’s not South Carolina; it’s not Florida; it’s not Alabama; it’s Massachusetts. And I think that we should have a rightful approach to everything we do, that sets Massachusetts apart and builds on the state’s good points, as opposed to trying to tear it apart with these type of things. This is Massachusetts. And the focus should be on Massachusetts.

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