Known as a bad-boy outsider, State Treasurer Joe Malone wants to be
acknowledged as an innovative executive. Will he be able to outsmart his
enemies and ride into the governor's office?
by Michael Crowley
For Joe Malone, becoming governor in 1998 will be as easy as one, two, three.
One: after months of hedging, Bill Weld decides not to run for a third term.
Two: Malone survives the payback of his bitter political enemies and beats out
a better-connected Paul Cellucci to win the Republican nomination.
Three: somehow, Malone overcomes a solid Democratic campaign -- most likely
the fearsome Joe Kennedy machine -- in an upset that rocks the state and makes
Along the way, Malone must contend with the fact that few people know who he
is or what he does. Why should they reward him with the state's highest
For a lot of politicians, odds like these are enough to call it quits,
surrender the dream, dive under the desk for a nervous breakdown.
Enter Treasurer H. Ross Malone.
Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci
Attorney General Scott Harshbarger
Rep. Joe Kennedy
State Treasurer Joe Malone
"We've got some nice visuals around here," Malone says, producing a stack of
charts from a corner of his State House office and grinning slightly at his own
hokiness. "In a business where there's a lot of `he said, she said,' these are
Malone's football-player hands hoist the window-sized posterboards one by one
to illustrate his skillfully spun tale of cost-cutting, efficiency, and
innovation at the state treasury. DOWNSIZING OF LOTTERY WORKFORCE. The bars
shrink. ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES IN LOTTERY. A thin line slopes downward.
"I don't know of any agency in government that could hold up a chart like
this," Malone says, his dark eyes lingering in admiration on the plunging blue
line that illustrates SPENDING LEVELS FOR TREASURY ADMINISTRATIVE, BANK FEE AND
RETIREMENT BOARD ACCOUNTS.
Malone is probably best known in state politics for his brash -- some say
shamelessly self-promotional -- attacks on the Beacon Hill political culture.
As a Republican in a Democratic empire, he has crafted an image as a
system-bucking outsider that has infuriated establishment pols who think him a
headline-hunting pain in the ass.
Says one GOP legislator: "It's apparent to me that if he had to run over his
own mother to get ahead he'd do it without any problem."
But Malone knows that a run for governor will take more than his trademark
napalm blasts against career legislators. So for six years he's been pushing
the traditional limits of the treasurer's job to show he can get things done as
an executive. From budget cutting and streamlining to the extracurricular
creation of new good-government programs -- and his politically ingenious
proposal this week to use pension funds to bail out the Big Dig without a hike
in tolls -- Malone feels he's answered the question he asked himself in 1991:
"What are you gonna do within this little world of the treasury to make a loud
The result: Malone has added an element of executive leadership to the winning
personal touch and the provocative-outsider act that have made him one of the
state GOP's brightest stars, and a real threat to become governor in 1998. But
Malone's burning ambition runs up against some daunting obstacles. Right now,
he is trapped in political limbo, waiting for Bill Weld to decide whether to
run for a third term. His enemies harbor old grudges from his showy outsider
stunts. His management of the state lottery is under new scrutiny. And Malone
is still trying to articulate a convincing political vision that rises above
poll-tested boilerplate GOP rhetoric.
This is Joe Malone's political moment of truth. And though some Beacon Hill
insiders are chattering about the intriguing possibility that Malone would
replace Cellucci for a 1998 Weld-Malone ticket, Joe Malone sees his political
future in three words: governor or good-bye.
Michael Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.