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Romney takes VIP detour to renew license

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used a private, VIP Registry of Motor Vehicles office Wednesday to renew his Massachusetts driver’s license, avoiding the lines and the aggravation that have been synonymous with the agency.

The office, located in the State Transportation Building, is just blocks from a standard Registry branch in Chinatown. But Romney instead went to the headquarters of the state’s Transportation Department, visiting a second-floor office belonging to the Registry’s enforcement division, his campaign confirmed Thursday.

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The space is often used by state troopers investigating accidents, though it has also become known as a place for celebrities, athletes, and other high-profile drivers to transact their business.

The Registry officials said such drivers receive different treatment because their presence in a public Registry branch could cause a disruption.

“Particularly because he has Secret Service protection, we thought it was a prudent request to let him do it in that fashion,’’ said Cyndi Roy, a Transportation Department spokeswoman.

The Registry has previously been criticized for giving preferential treatment in assigning low-numbered license plates. In 1997, the state enacted a lottery system for low-numbered plates to eliminate favoritism.

Romney’s Registry stop was part of a whirlwind effort to take care of personal business after he returned to Massachusetts to vote on Super Tuesday and delivered his victory speech that night in downtown Boston.

During his brief return to Massachusetts, he visited the Belmont house of his eldest son, Tagg, for homemade chicken marsala, and - he confessed to reporters - made a run to CVS to restock on medications.

But Romney, who turns 65 Monday, also had to renew his license before his birthday.

Under Massachusetts law, licenses must be renewed every five years. The task can normally be handled online, however, drivers have to appear in person once every 10 years to get their license photo updated.

Romney was due this year. The charge is $50.

In the near future, at least, the former Massachusetts governor may not need a license.

As a Secret Service protectee, he no longer drives himself and is instead driven by agents in an armored sport utility vehicle. It is one of President Obama’s frequent laments that he can no longer get in a car and take a drive to clear his head.

When he was president, George W. Bush used to get around the prohibition by heading to his Texas ranch, where he was allowed to drive his pickup truck, or to Camp David, where he could drive a golf cart.

As a protectee, Romney also does not need his license to get past airport security. He is accompanied by armed federal agents, making passage through a metal detector unnecessary.

Given his current campaign activity, Romney is hoping he will not need to use his license before 2021 - the end of a second presidential term.

That would also be just a year before he needs a new license photo.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
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