Bob Healey did not win the Rhode Island gubernatorial race. No one expected him to, seeing as he didn't plan to raise any money during his campaign.
He did, however, win 22 percent of the vote — 10 percent more than the last Brown University poll had projected -- while Democratic candidate Gina Raimondo beat Republican Allan Fung 40-36.
The substantially bearded Healey told a local news station Wednesday morning: “It’s amazing what $35 can do. As I’ve been saying, if we only spent $75, $80, we might’ve won the race."
On Tuesday night, Providence's Eyewitness News was a bit shocked. A political analyst said on air: “I don’t think anybody expected Bob Healey to get that high. We expected Bob Healey in double figures, maybe as high as 14 or 15 percent, but he really drew a lot of votes. Some communities he actually won, if I remember seeing the numbers correctly. He ran second in some communities."
Healey, analyzing his own success this year, says that it shows that people are sick of all the money getting spent in elections — and of the endless negative ads that are an unavoidable result. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 2014 election cost at least $3.7 billion.
The fact that Healey has been running for office in Rhode Island forever may have helped his "beard recognition," as Eyewitness News put it. When Healey sood next to his opponents this year, his beard and long hair did stand out.
This year he ran as a Moderate Party candidate after the original candidate dropped out because of health problems. He often runs as the candidate of the Cool Moose Party, which he founded in 1994.
Healey first ran for governor in 1986 as an independent, and got less than 2 percent of the vote. He has run for lieutenant governor several times, promising to abolish the office if he ever won. In 2010, he came in second place with 39 percent of the vote. He once ran for a local school board with the slogan, "Strange Man for a Strange Job."
His low-cost billboards — which the former house painter does mostly himself — are usually the most visible in Rhode Island during campaign season. He usually paints them on the side of his friends' houses.
His quirks are not limited to his campaign style. The biography he posted on his campaign Web site is so wondrous that, when paired with his beard, it may be fanciful enough that even Wes Anderson would raise an eyebrow if you told him about it.
Away from politics, Bob started a liquor wholesale company with a partner. That liquor company went from zero sales to millions in just over five years. The company was sold and Bob took his share of the profit to South America where he invested in land. During these years, Bob had attempted several business ventures, many with little success. He started a wine company in Uruguay to import California wines, an ice cream company, and a yacht provisioning service, all of which were terminated. He had a wine brand labeled with his face that proved quite successful. He imported plate ware from Uruguay and opened a wine and cheese establishment in Warren.
Despite his recent impressive finishes in the polls, Healey told Eyewitness News that he might be done with politics, and is ready for young people to take his place.
"Maybe with all my gray hair I can retire at last," he said.
He also announced that his company has a "national liquor product that’s going to market probably the mid part of next year." We can only hope that it also features a label with his face on it -- just like his wine brand.