PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Robert J. “Bob” Healey Jr., a bearded iconoclast whose multiple campaigns for public office included a competitive bid for governor in 2014, has died. He was 58.
Barrington Police Chief John LaCross said police and fire personnel were called to Healey’s home on Sowams Road at 9:41 p.m. after “a report of a possible sudden death.” A good friend of Healey’s met them, saying he’d gone there after not hearing from Healey and becoming concerned. Healey was found in bed under the covers and was pronounced dead at 10.
Barrington Town Council President June Speakman said the town manager told her Healey’s death was “not suspicious.”
Healey was best known for launching Rhode Island’s Cool Moose Party. He served on the Warren School Committee from 1982 until 1986 and then ran unsuccessfully for governor four times and lieutenant governor on three occasions.
During the 2014 governor’s race, Healey stunned observers twice: first by entering the race late in place of another Moderate Party candidate, then by capturing 21% of the vote after spending just $35 on his campaign. He finished third behind Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a Republican.
“It’s amazing what $35 can do,” Healy told Eyewitness News the morning after the election. “As I’ve been saying, if we only spent $75, $80, we might’ve won the race.”
Four years earlier, Healey had run for lieutenant governor – and promised to abolish the office if he won it. That time he took 39% of the vote against incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Roberts.
“He showed the rest of us that someone that doesn’t look the part can be effective,” Speakman said. “He broke the rule that you didn’t need to have a lot of money to get involved.”
While best known for his anti-establishment appearance, Healey was also recognized for his intelligence and wit, holding a law degree and two master’s degrees. He also owned a liquor wholesale business and a cheese store in Warren.
Speakman, who is also a professor of political science at Roger Williams University, said Healey would routinely visit her classes to speak about running for office.
“The students wondered why he would get into politics the way he looked, and his belief was that he could make government better and he urged them to get involved in public life,” she said. “My memory is him in the classroom and how wonderful he was with the students.”
Healey’s death was first reported by the Barrington Times.Walt Buteau contributed to this report.