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[This Just In]

Mickey Roache Looking for higher office


Roache entered the political ring with high aspirations, running for mayor in 1993. He came up far short, drawing only three percent of the vote and running what the Boston Globe described as the " worst campaign of the season. " But this year, after his string of powerhouse showings at the city-council level, Roache strongly considered taking on Menino — the winner of the 1993 contest — in a rematch. He formed an informal exploratory committee in January, and an internal poll had him coming in second — but, he notes, with " a wide gap " separating him and Menino (45 points, to be exact). A March poll conducted by at-large councilor and mayoral candidate Peggy Davis-Mullen echoed the findings, with Roache’s favorability at 55 percent compared to Menino’s 85 percent. Davis-Mullen herself came in third, at 42 percent.

But his meager finances (less than $5000 at the time he pulled out) ultimately convinced him he couldn’t compete with Menino’s million-plus war chest. " Resources can’t really come to a candidate with a popular mayor [running for re-election], " he says. In the meantime, another office caught his eye. When Suffolk County register of deeds Paul Tierney died, the council was abuzz with talk that Roache was interested in having Secretary of State Bill Galvin appoint him to the post. " I never spent any time on that, " he insists, and says he’s not currently pursuing the job. " Good luck to somebody else, " he says. But he won’t rule out future options.

One point in the councilor’s favor: he’s popular for his tireless attendance at neighborhood events, and for his (politically savvy) insistence that he’s just there to listen. Says former councilor-at-large John Nucci, " There’s 30 to 40 percent of the voters who will always vote for a Mickey Roache because they’ve met him or like him. "

But, Nucci adds, personal likeability extends only so far: " That’s enough to top the ticket in a council race, but it’s not enough to win one-on-one for another race. " As the 64-year-old councilor explores higher office, his conservative political views could become more of a burden. Roache’s stance against abortion and domestic-partnership benefits, positions born of a strong Catholic faith, may help him in some of the city’s more conservative neighborhoods, like South Boston and West Roxbury — which tend to have higher turnout. Yet as candidates for the Ninth Congressional District seat scramble madly to reinvent themselves as supporters of reproductive rights and civil unions, it’s clear that hard-core conservatism is sometimes a hindrance in larger races.

Even there, however, Roache is genteel, eschewing the firebrand politics that fueled his former at-large colleague Dapper O’Neil. O’Neil, for example, was renowned for such antics as threatening Councilor Gareth Saunders of Roxbury, an African-American, from his wheelchair ( " I wish I could get up out of this goddamned chair — I’ll show you what you are " ) and his sneering comments about domestic partnership for gays and lesbians ( " What are they, the chosen people? " ). But Roache can disagree with his ideological opponents respectfully.

Michelle LaPointe of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Alliance of Massachusetts sent Roache, along with the other council candidates, an endorsement questionnaire in 1999. " He responded almost immediately to the letter by calling me directly, " she recalls. " He said he had looked over the questionnaire and wouldn’t submit it because none of his responses would be anywhere near what we were looking for, and he didn’t think it would be a good use of our time, but he didn’t want to just not respond. " She praises his sincerity, noting, " Most legislators who aren’t in our corner tend to simply ignore our questionnaires altogether. "

He’s scored more points with the city’s African-American community. Though Roache received his share of criticism as head of the police department during the racially charged Charles Stuart case (in which a white man killed his wife but attempted to pin the blame on an African-American), Nucci notes that the councilor also built up a reservoir of goodwill through his work running the Community Disorders Unit, for which he attended countless neighborhood meetings. The payoff? Two years ago, Roache topped the ticket in every single ward in Roxbury and Dorchester.

Roache isn’t known for his legislative accomplishments — he doesn’t have a signature issue, aside from small-bore stuff like banning the sale of mercury thermometers and helping to pass the Living Wage Ordinance, a progressive measure supported by both labor unions and liberal activists. His age, his ideology, and his lack of money and organization may well hurt his chances of ever moving beyond the council. But as long as he wants it, Roache can rely on his semi-star power and personal relationships to keep him in office, thanks to his pre-Hillary emphasis on " listening " — even, his aide notes, when people talk at him for 10 straight minutes in Cantonese. Next to Tom Menino, it makes him the most popular man in the city.

Issue Date: August 9 - 16, 2001