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Christy Mihos: 'Not The Country-Club Republican'

This article is more than 13 years old.

Christy Mihos is running for governor, again. Four years ago, the convenience store magnate from Yarmouth campaigned as an independent. He scored a distant third in the general election. This time, Mihos is waging a GOP campaign. So far, he and Charlie Baker are the only Republicans who have officially declared their gubernatorial intentions.

Mihos joined us in Studio 2, and started by explaining why he's making a second bid for the Corner Office.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos in the studio with WBUR's Bob Oakes. (Sarah Bush/WBUR)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos in the studio with WBUR's Bob Oakes. (Sarah Bush/WBUR)

Christy Mihos: I'm a son of Massachusetts, I've always lived here, built a great business here — Christy's Markets — we were very successful, raising a family here.

I love the Commonwealth and I just hate to see what is happening to my state and I think the state needs a real fiscal conservative in the corner office right now, to really change some things up there and elect as many Republicans so at least we can have a two-party system here instead of one party doing all the talking and another party doing all the painting.

Bob Oakes: When you ran in 2006, you got 7 percent of the vote. You were soundly defeated then. What's different now? What makes you think you have a chance this time?

Well, last time I felt that the Republican Party had left me. I had always been a Republican, raised tons of money for the party, for the candidates, had run for the state Senate in 1990 and lost in the recount by three votes, but when I found that Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey were taking money from Big Dig contractors — people that I was fighting each and every day as a member of the Turnpike board — it was very difficult to look at that and say, you know, that this party is with it. We just became what I hated about the Democratic leadership: sold out to the special interests.

So while you say the GOP Party left you, you in fact left the GOP Party to run as an independent.

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, it sounds great to run as an independent, you're beholden to no one — and I still am. But when you're an independent, although 51, 52 percent of the people in the Commonwealth are registered independents, there's really no party behind you, so I feel very strongly about this one.

When you announced your candidacy formally in April, as a Republican, you weren't actually a registered Republican then. We checked with the clerk in your hometown of Yarmouth who said the registration was changed on June 3.

June 3, right.

Are you committed to the Republican Party --

Oh, absolutely.

--Or is being a Republican right now a political convenience?

No it isn't. Like I said, except for 2006 and 2007 when I ran, I was always a Republican, had always supported Republican candidates, and in fact I'm out trying to recruit as many candidates as I can, and every time one files his or her papers, I present them with a personal check for the legal maximum of $500 — trying to get as many people running in this election, I vowed --

Well that sounds to some like buying your way back in.

Well, you know what. Look, we're down to 11 percent of the registered voters here in the Commonwealth.


Republicans. We used to be around 19 when Weld was at his apex there. I'm just trying to rebuild the Republican Party in an image that I think would warrant someone to take a real good, hard look at electing some fiscal conservatives to the Legislature, certainly, and I'm also saying that the moneys that the state committee collects each election cycle — about a million and a half to two million dollars — all of that money should go to the people that are running for the Legislature.

So we're down to five Republican senators and 16 Republican reps.

Let's talk about campaign issues. You and your GOP rival, Charlie Baker, have said you'd roll back the state sales tax hike that just went into effect. If the sales tax is eliminated, how would you generate revenue to plug the holes, the massive holes, in the state budget?

Well, I'd do a couple things relative to new revenues, and that's I am for slots at the casinos — at the racetracks, I'm anti-casino, please.

This state is rife with abuse of power and corruption. I would hate to bring in another authority, another form of government, to run those casinos, but at the racetracks would be about $500 million a year. So that's one aspect that we can do it very quickly, we have the infrastructure there, just allow the thing to happen.

The other issue is that I believe Massachusetts should join with the other states of New Jersey and Maryland and seek a waiver on the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which would allow sports betting here in the Commonwealth.

We have the state-of-the-art products out there that we can handle this overnight and get the additional billion dollars back to the cities and towns, where they're suffering with 2002 local aid revenue numbers. You cannot keep the cities and towns going by cutting their local aid each and every year and not offering any type — any type — of property tax relief by cutting local aid.

Do you believe that there should be property tax relief for individuals and if so how are you going to deliver that?

Well certainly the only way you can deliver that is you have to give people back their own money in the form of local aid.

As a longtime MassPike board member and a longtime Big Dig critic, of course you're aware of the lawsuit that is currently ongoing, which challenges MassPike tolls being used to pay down Big Dig debt. Have you supported that lawsuit financially?

I haven't. I had proposed something very different: that we sell off some of the assets of the Turnpike Authority, pay down the Western Turnpike bonds, which today are about $164 million, and terminate tolling as Chapter 81A states in Massachusetts general laws, once the bonds in the Western Pike are paid off, you've got to take down those tolls.

That would give at least some type of relief to Metro West, Central Mass. and Western Mass., give them about $130 million a year in tolls that they wouldn't have to pay at that point. But the Metropolitan Highway system is something that actually my opponent, Charlie Baker, wrote the financing scheme for the Big Dig and it's been problematic then and it's problematic today.

OK, which at this early point in the campaign may be the biggest contention between you and your Republican rival, Charlie Baker: his connection to the Big Dig through his work in the Well and Cellucci administrations; your opposition to the Big Dig during your years on the Turnpike Board, etc.

Will the Republican Party primary be a battle over the Big Dig?

I think that will be one of the issues, certainly, but it'll be an incredible increase in the cost of health care.

Are you saying Charlier Baker, longtime head of Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare until he resigned just a few weeks ago, should take some of the responsibility for rising health care costs in Massachusetts?

Well, they didn't go down under his leadership, certainly. There's no cost containment provision in there whatsoever that would decrease the cost. Right now, this is just an absolute mess and it will get worse at the federal level if we ration health care the way the Obama administration is doing.

What do you make, and what do you want listeners to make, of the fact that a good chunk of the top Republicans in Massachusetts have already lined up behind Charlie Baker?

I'm not an institutional Republican; I'm not the country-club Republican. I'm the ousider. You know, I speak truth to power, and I'm not afraid of doing it.

This program aired on August 6, 2009.

Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.



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