By Jonathan Riley
BOSTON -- Independent gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk announced Wednesday that he has chosen Springfield native Angus Jennings, a professional planner and consultant, to be his running mate.
"It's a huge milestone for the campaign," said Falchuk, who founded the United Independent Party last year. "It represents the seriousness with which we are taking all of the different issues that voters know are important."
Falchuk listed the rising costs of housing and health care as his chief focus.
"There's a third one, which is the fact that people don't have confidence or faith in government to address these issues," he said from his campaign office in Boston.
Falchuk has a background in the health-care industry, as a former executive at Boston-based Best Doctors Inc., while Jennings has dealt with housing and zoning issues as part of his planning and consulting background.
Jennings blamed the lack of zoning for housing on state policies and state formulas that discourage local officials from adding to their housing stock.
"Housing production has not kept up with demand, that's been a structural problem for a lot of years," Jennings said. "The constraint on that is, by and large, local land-use policy."
As for health care, Falchuk said both major parties are to blame for increasing costs.
"The problem with health-care costs is that we've got hospitals merging into giant systems and doing monopolistic things like raising their prices," he said.
"That's when they started merging."
But Democrats haven't fixed the problem, Falchuk said.
"We've had eight years of a Democratic administration and a Democratic Legislature, and they've watched it continue."
Falchuk pointed to a pending deal that would allow Partners Healthcare to buy South Shore Hospital, "which the Health Policy Commission says is anti-competitive, it's going to cost consumers tens of millions of dollars," he said.
"Attorney General Martha Coakley, who's running for governor, is talking about how to negotiate a solution. I call it negotiating the public's surrender to the deal," Falchuk said.
Jennings and Falchuk met last year and "immediately hit it off," Falchuk said.
"In my business experience, it's always about the team you put together, the kind of people you have," he said. "Do they have the ability to articulate visions? Can they build consensus around solutions and be accountable for them? That's what Angus has done his whole career."
Part of Falchuk and Jennings' goal in running this year is to get the 3 percent of the vote needed to give the United Independent Party official ballot status after November.
"There are so many smart, independent people who will be able to join our Legislature once we become an official party after this election, looking toward 2016, to have real, fundamental, comprehensive reform," Falchuk said.
But running as a third party or independent candidate is easier said than done.
"The structure of the system, not just in Massachusetts but around the country, is designed to prevent new political movements from arising," Falchuk said.
Because the United Independent Party has not won ballot status it can only get a maximum campaign donation of $1,500 per person, as opposed to $15,000 for Democrats and Republicans.
"It's a 10-1 difference, and the only difference between me and Angus and the candidates of those parties is that we don't belong to their club, and I guess the other difference is that they made the rules," Falchuk said.
There are also other hurdles for third parties and independents.
"Some of it is also helping people understand that there aren't just two choices. It's not just about you fit into the Democratic or Republican box," Falchuk said. "You can actually think about things for yourself and come up with your own views, and they may not fit neatly into either one of those categories."