By Owen Heimsoth | United States
Robert J. Healey did not look like your typical politician. He was an older looking man with long curly hair and the beard of a Viking.
In an interview after Healey’s unexpected death in 2016, a local restaurant owner described him like this: “He really looked like he rolled out of the ’60s, but he was sincerely one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met.”
After running twice for governor and four times for Lt. Governor in the state of Rhode Island, (once on the platform of abolishing the office, in which he won 39% of the vote under the Cool Moose Party) he decided to take another stab at the Governor’s Mansion. He would run under the newly founded Moderate Party, after the original candidate dropped out for health reasons. He threw thirty-five dollars and thirty-one cents of his personal money into his campaign and accepted no outside money. Healey said that he spent that money on a prepaid cell phone.
He did some grassroots campaigning to get his name out there in the state and won 21.4% of the votes.
His end-of-campaign thank you was extremely powerful and reflected on his impact on the gubernatorial race. The full text can be found here.
“As you know, we did not destroy that campaign, it imploded on itself. Our outstanding performance demonstrated that people were dissatisfied with the system. The real story is that there are just too many out there still willing to play the party politics game.
Together we shocked the system. We worked together toward a worthwhile goal and that should not be taken for granted, nor should it be minimized by political pundits. We all worked too hard to let this happen.”
He also threw around humor about fending off accusations of ruining the campaign of GOP candidate Allan Fung in the thank-you.
Healey is one of the only people running under a moderate party to run for such a high office, and he showed that the US is ready for a new moderate/centrist party to shake up politics.
A 2013 NBC poll shows that 51% of Americans who consider themselves political moderates. Many identify themselves as socially left-leaning and fiscally right-leaning. Robert J. Healey himself leaned in this way but focused more on economic reform in line with the Moderate Party platform.
The party is currently in the middle of a heated primary between Ken Block, the founder of the party who ran for Governor as a Republican in 2014, and Bill Gilbert who is the current Chair of the party and Bob Healey’s Lt. Governor candidate. They may not win, but the Rhode Island Gubernatorial race will certainly be one to watch this November. If they can pull a decent chunk of the vote without perennial candidate Healey on the ticket, they may legitimize themselves as the real deal in American politics.