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.