Joe and Alicia Healy have a pretty typical Columbus family: four kids, two careers, a busy life, always on the run to work or a daughter's basketball game or some neighborhood activity.
How they spend their spare time, however, is decidedly atypical. Joe and Alicia are running for Columbus City Council, not just against the usual assortment of Democratic incumbents and other lesser challengers, but also against each other. They are two of four Republicans in the race, facing long odds, but undaunted, even though the presence of both on the ballot, of course, presents the danger of splitting the Healy vote.
The Healys take such concerns in stride. They've been at this for a while, each having run unsuccessfully for council and spots at the Ohio Statehouse. They don't look at it as running against each other, but as campaigning together, a logical extension of a deep commitment to their shared political beliefs.
Running for office, "that's an easy step," Joe says. "The only way policies change is if you get involved."
"You can't just not be involved," says Alicia. They describe themselves as "Tea Party types," and if you have any doubt about the passion that movement evokes, you just need to spend a little time with the Healys.
"I believe we're really in deep trouble" in the U.S., Joe says. The Healys favor lower taxes, less business regulation, budget cuts and rolling back the power of unions. As for how Tea Party populism resonates in Columbus, here's what Alicia had to say in a letter to the Dispatch in 2009 after the paper endorsed incumbent council Democrats:
"It is not surprising to me that the Dispatch, along with a few other affiliated corporate and development interests who pushed hard for the city income-tax increase, would endorse the incumbent City Council candidates who rubber stamp their policies. But what is good for the elite few is almost always bad for the many. But beyond the fact that the current City Council and mayor faithfully do the bidding of the elite club, they display the character of being just plain fiscally reckless."
The Healys echo critics who say the Democrat-controlled council is too insular. They would add ward representation to at-large seats on council as a way to add independent voices. They have far less money than the well-heeled Dem machine, so the Healys are limited in accessing voters outside their Driving Park neighborhood. With children and work (he's a home-remodeling contractor, she's a Mary Kay consultant), their campaigning consists of pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and shaking hands.
"We're pretty much grass-roots people," Alicia says.
And if there's room for only one Healy on council? "I'm rooting for my wife," Joe says.
This story appeared in the March 2011 issue of Columbus Monthly.