He’s a man on a mission — a mission that, if not quite impossible, is highly improbable.
Evan Falchuk wants to establish a new, free-thinking, solutions-oriented political party in Massachusetts, one that will favor data over dogma, tackle big issues, challenge unopposed lawmakers, and engage citizens.
Falchuk’s immediate aim is to have his gubernatorial candidacy, under the currently unofficial banner of the United Independent Party, garner at least 3 percent of the vote in November. If it does, his organization will win official party status, allowing it to hold a primary and have designated UIP nominees in 2016. The 44-year-old medical-sector businessman thinks that with that official status, his organization could recruit appealing legislative candidates and attract the support of thousands of unenrolled voters.
Once won, that party status has to be maintained, of course. In 2016, that would mean either signing up some 43,000 voters or corralling 3 percent on another statewide ballot — and in a year when the only electoral avenue is the presidential race.
Falchuk professes to be undaunted by those difficulties. “If it were easy, lots of people would have done it,” he says.
Idealistic and energetic, he brings to his cause both passion and clarity — a clarity that’s refreshing in a year when some candidates seem far more intent on finessing than addressing big issues.
“I’m running on what I call smart, brave reform,” Falchuk says. “The fundamental issues are ones that the establishment doesn’t even want to talk about, certainly not in concrete ways. I go to so many of these forums . . . and you hear vague platitudes about everything.”
Falchuk’s guiding principles: 1) Everybody is equal; 2) Everybody’s civil rights must be protected; 3) The government has to spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely. Those tenets make it easy to surmise where he is on, say, gay marriage: strongly in support. They also inform his concern about a criminal justice system he sees as weighted against the poor and minorities, particularly in the differential consequences for drug use.
On other issues, Falchuk promises a deep dive into the data, consultation with experts, and a commitment to honest solutions based on the merits. As an example, he cites the detailed “thriving communities” plan he and his running mate, Angus Jennings, have put forward to promote more affordable housing. They have accurately diagnosed the way towns discourage more housing because of their concern that more families will mean more school expenses. Their basic thrust: More state education and infrastructure dollars to offset those costs.
Ah, but where would those dollars come from? Falchuk would end many corporate tax incentives and push for a progressive income tax, which would require an amendment to the state constitution. He also wants a new executive-branch agency to find state programs that have outlived their usefulness.
His signature health care proposal calls for moving Massachusetts to a rate-setting regime like Maryland’s, in which state regulators would determine hospital charges and overall budgets. His view there is informed by his 13 years at Best Doctors Inc., a company that provides second opinions for patients’ diagnoses and treatment plans. He doesn’t believe that, in the current era of hospital consolidation, it’s possible to control health care costs without more dramatic action than Massachusetts has so far taken. I’m dubious there. This state has only recently embarked on a concerted cost-containment effort; rate-setting, meanwhile, creates its own problems. That said, I still give Falchuk credit for a forthright stand on a thorny issue.
He also deserves credit for criticizing the state Senate for its Wednesday defeat of a modest charter school cap lift. That vote brought criticism from Republican Charles D. Baker Jr. as well, but found the Democratic candidates quiet as church mice.
In a campaign full of familiar faces, Falchuk is the fresh, idealistic, youthful newcomer. Yes, the odds are against him establishing a third party with real staying power.
Yet his enthusiasm is infectious. And who knows? As that old political consultant Goethe mighta once sorta said: “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”Scot Lehigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.