Monday, November 3, 2014

We don’t need a wild card in every contest

Many of us in Red Sox Nation remember this week ten years ago as being the greatest in sports history. After securing the AL wild card spot in the playoffs, the Red Sox beat the Angels in the American League Division Series before facing the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. After being down three games to none, the Red Sox came back to win four games in a row and beat the Yankees for the American League title. By October 27, 2004, the AL wild card Red Sox were World Series Champions and the generations-long streak of gut-wrenching losses was over.

Since the baseball gods did not smile on the Red Sox this year, I’m forced to reminisce and focus on political races instead of baseball playoffs. In RI we have a wild card in the race for governor. Local attorney Bob Healey was a last minute entry for the Moderate Party, dropping the Cool Moose label and swapping positions with another candidate who was too ill to run. Mr. Healey is well-regarded as a smart man who reflects the common-sense values of our area, so I am puzzled by why he would allow himself to used as a spoiler in such an important race. He insists that his campaign is a serious one but in my opinion, using a loophole to join a race less than eight weeks from Election Day is a stunt, not what one would expect from a person who wants to move Rhode Island forward.

From a constitutional standpoint, Rhode Island’s governor is weak. There is no line-item veto and a governor cannot place a referendum on the ballot. However, the job is nevertheless an immense responsibility as the governor serves as the administrator for state government and the public-facing representative of our state. For most candidates, the decision to run is a difficult one because the campaign — and serving in the office — is an incredible commitment and requires an investment of time and money. I’m sure many candidates would like to slide into the race after the primary, saving money and an entire summer on the campaign trail.

And while I certainly understand Mr. Healey’s dislike for the influence of money in politics and respect his decision not to raise any money or to self-fund, it shows that he’s not in this to win.  The simple truth is that one needs to spend some money to compete in politics. A serious hockey player would never try and play without skates, pads, a stick and ice time and a serious candidate for public office needs basic campaign infrastructure — and that requires money. This is not a revelation: Bob Healey has been running for statewide office over the course of the last 30 years and he has yet to do two things: raise money and win.

While I respect anyone willing to put his or her name on the ballot, I think it’s important to do it the right way and to respect our democratic process. While finding the loophole, dropping the Cool Moose banner and sliding in as a Moderate has been okayed by the lawyers, it still won’t sit well with many voters. Rhode Island needs serious candidates for these difficult days and fewer wild cards on the ballot.

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