Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Healy Shows Backbone

In a recent Hartford Business Journal article, Dean Pagani writes that, “Chris Healy may be on the verge of doing something no one else has done in almost twenty years: Make the job of state party chairman relevant”. The revelation comes as a great surprise to some who doubted Healy when he ascended to the post in January, but as each day passes it becomes increasingly undeniable. Other Chairmen have served ably – Chris Healy has been superb.

Long known as a bomb-throwing backbencher in the Republican State Central Committee, Healy’s path to leadership has been a long arc marked by challenges to the status quo and ardent loyalty to fellow party members, punctuated by the perpetual whispers about his alcohol consumption and his penchant for a fight. Chris quarterbacked the Dole Campaign in Connecticut in ’96 even though the conclusion seemed forgone. He was the lead on the McCain Campaign in 2000 and bucked the national trend by delivering the state to McCain despite George W. Bush’s familial roots in Connecticut . And he helped Sebastian Giuliano become a Republican Mayor in Middletown – a phrase that few had ever uttered before 2005.

2006 was a year in which all of the pundits lined up and said that Republicans in Congress were going to be buried beneath a Democratic “wave” of backlash against corruption, Iraq , and out-of-control spending. Despite this sentiment, Healy took on the race of Congressman Rob Simmons, a perennial Democrat target in a fickle district comprised almost entirely of “backwater” Connecticut . With an Irish diligence, Chris guided the Simmons campaign to even on Election Day – in a year in which almost no targeted Republican kept their seat, Simmons lost an election in which 242,000 ballots were cast by 83 votes. Some people will pass harsh judgment and call it a failure. I call it respectable.

With the burn of the narrow loss still painful, it became clear that the Party was going to need a new leader as George Gallo moved on to other things. The Governor lobbied hard to keep Gallo in place – and then as Healy showed some interest in the job, she lobbied to keep him out of it. As the overwhelming will of the committee became apparent, Rell joined him because she couldn’t beat him.

And now Chris Healy has gotten himself in trouble – the recovering alcoholic’s worst nightmare – a relapse and arrest for driving under the influence. To his credit, he didn’t protest, he didn’t attempt to wear his position as a shield; he didn’t shirk from the responsibility that he must bear – for himself. He stood before the members of the State Central Committee and in faith and honesty laid out the situation for people, and answered any questioner’s query. He has nothing to hide. In the world of politics, in which so much time and energy is wasted on the ignoble maintenance of fool’s pride, Healy came clean. He probably could have covered it up – Lord knows there are only two weeks until the Chairman’s election – and he could have gotten away with it. But he chose not to do so. The scrutiny of Chris should be severe – and all should reiterate that driving under the influence of alcohol is a danger to everyone in society. But we need also remember that preaching accountability and responsibility means that you have to be responsible and accountable. The Chairman of the Connecticut Republicans has done that. And Republicans across Connecticut should stick with him because of it.

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