His Mom Ran Hadassah. His Brother Made ‘Glee.’ Now Evan Falchuk Is Going Into Politics.
The 44-year-old healthcare entrepreneur wants to be Massachusetts’s next governor and maybe start a third-party revolution
Evan Falchuk has really good hair. It’s mesmerizingly good, in the way that only really good haircuts can be. Falchuk, who is running for governor of Massachusetts, wouldn’t tell me where he gets it cut, only that he has been going to the same place in Boston for the past decade. His campaign manager, Jennifer Beltz, called the haircut “the one punchy element” in her candidate’s beautifully tailored wardrobe, though when I met with Falchuk on a recent cold winter morning at his campaign headquarters, the cufflinks on the shirt he wore under his navy suit had flowers on them that could really only be described as “punchy.” They matched his purple tie, underscoring the youthfulness of the candidate, who is 44 and aiming to get into a business where the median age is 60.
He wears his tall, athletic build with ease—the same way he wears his great hair and his great suit. Olive skin, big brown eyes behind rimless square glasses, and extremely intense eye contact complete the look of the lawyer-entrepreneur. But Falchuk is not only well-dressed. He is also a scion of a well-connected and well-heeled Boston family. His father, Kenneth, is a professor at Harvard Medical School and on the staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; his mother, Nancy, a trained nurse, is a former national president of Hadassah. Evan Falchuk is extremely intelligent—the kind of intelligence you can’t fake, the kind that enjoys its own seat at the table, as stunning and electrifying as beauty. He has been this way since he was a child, according to his younger brother Brad, writer, producer, and co-creator of Glee. “Evan always seemed to be the smartest person in the room,” he told me. “Everyone went to him for answers to things.”
The aura of the child-prodigy still clings to Falchuk, who took his father’s small medical-consulting company and built it into a $200 million business. He announced his candidacy last February, shortly after launching the United Independent Party—an initiative explicitly aimed at solving the problems Falchuk believes plague the two-party system. “Massachusetts is home to some of the most forward-leaning businesses in the world,” Falchuk wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe in June. “What we don’t have is a functioning, multiparty democracy. … As a result, in many respects, voters lose out in terms of broader options and new ideas.”
So far, Falchuk’s platform consists of familiar-sounding themes—investment in job training, infrastructure, and renewable energy. When he describes his goals, he is articulate, compelling, sharp and clear, as mesmerizing as his hair. When I asked him what the United Independent Party believes the role of government to be, he told me it’s not a question of ideology. “The role of government is to play a constructive role, be helpful in solving problems consistent with what our values are. People just don’t trust government anymore,” he he told me, sitting at the conference table in his office, overlooking Boston Common. “If your customers don’t trust you, you have to address that issue.”
It’s the answer of someone who has built a fortune successfully catering to consumers. Falchuk is most in his bliss when he’s using his intelligence to identify and solve problems, as described in his personal bible, the management book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins. Starting something new, he told me in his campaign headquarters, is “the root of every entrepreneurial success story. You don’t usually see that in politics. My background is in business, and most Americans, that’s their mindset. And the thing with ideologies, they distill everything down to their ideology, and the trouble is, the world is more sophisticated and nuanced than any ideology can speak to.”
Falchuk is hardly the first entrepreneur to run for elected office as a progressive, pragmatic outsider. But he is running in a state that has seesawed wildly between partisan extremes in the past three years, electing both Scott Brown, a Tea Party Republican, and Elizabeth Warren, the country’s best-known progressive icon, to the U.S. Senate. Massachusetts is famously deep-blue turf when it comes to presidential elections, but the current governor, the progressive Democrat Deval Patrick, was preceded in office by the Republican standard-bearer Mitt Romney.
The gubernatorial field is already crowded, and no real frontrunner has emerged to replace Patrick, who is not running for a third term. Martha Coakley, the state’s Democratic attorney general—who is best known for extravagantly losing her 2010 campaign to fill Ted Kennedy’s open Senate seat after his death—is facing State Treasurer Steven Grossman, a onetime Democratic National Committee chair and former AIPAC president, as well as Juliette Kayyem, a former Boston Globe columnist who served in the Obama Administration. On the Republican side, Charles Baker, who lost to Patrick in 2010, is running again. Analysts say that in a state with very little history of supporting independent candidates, Falchuk may wind up playing the role of most third-party candidates: spoiler. “If you were a Democrat, you might fear his candidacy more than a Republican,” said Thomas Whalen, a social scientist at Boston University. “It won’t take much to swing the election. If he can take just 2 percent of the vote, that could be a big factor determining who next governor is.”
Jennifer Beltz, who spent two years working for Falchuk’s company, Best Doctors, as vice president of public affairs and media relations before joining the campaign, remembers the moment that the conversations about politics that she and Falchuk enjoyed casually turned into a more urgent realization that he should be pursuing public office. Evan had just given an interview to AARP Primetime in Washington about healthcare. “It was a very challenging, lengthy interview with the host, not a light interview, and he was able to explain things in such a compelling and clear way. At the end, the host said, ‘Evan Falchuk, the guy makes too much sense for me,’ ” Beltz recalled. “Sometimes you have a crystallizing moment, and I remember thinking, that’s what we need in our leaders.”
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