When it’s time to campaign, he tries to leave the office around 5 p.m. on weeknights, which gives him two hours to canvass neighborhoods and knock on doors before it gets too dark and cold to be out.
But earlier this week, he walked to the front door of an elderly couple living in a two-story condominium in Guilford, Conn., and rang the doorbell. He wasn’t making it to another house that night.
“Hello, THE Bill Bilcheck, running for probate,” he said to a woman at the door.
“Hey! You gotta come down here,” she screamed to her husband upstairs. “Bill Belichick is here!”
For a long while, they talked about how amazing it was that a man named Bill Bilcheck was running for office. In New England. Surrounded by Patriots fans. He guessed that he gained two votes, but by the time he walked out of the house the sun was down, so he probably lost a handful more by not making it anywhere else.
Such are the rigors of political life for Bilcheck, who is running for Madison/Guilford Probate Judge—the only elected judgeship in the state of Connecticut—as a Republican for the second straight time. He lost his first bid for public office four years ago by 269 votes—a defeat he blames, in part, on the Patriots head coach never formally endorsing him.
Ask Bilcheck and he’ll tell you the two are kindred spirits. He said he traced his family’s lineage back to the same Pittsburgh suburbs of the Patriots head coach. He also lives next door to Dan DiCenzo, the football coach at Wesleyan—Belichick’s alma mater. He is a Patriots fan dating back to before the current dynasty. And to cement his Patriots fandom, he claims to know a secret route into the famously traffic-clogged Gillette Stadium, which, on game day, is a slog along Route 1.
“Park at the tire store before the game, have a little barbecue and walk the half mile, hope you don’t get hit by a truck,” he said, laughing.
“It’s a split here,” he said Thursday. “If you know anything about Connecticut, we’re split between the Giants and the Patriots. Growing up in the late ’60s, early ’70s, the Giants sucked. So I was a Packers fan, but then I went to college, got married and settled in to Connecticut so I became a Patriots fan. They were supposed to move to Hartford, so I plunked down $25 for four season tickets. But it took me 10 years to get them—at Gillette.”
If you receive a phone call from Bilcheck, it shows up on the caller ID as William Bilcheck. His personal Facebook page also has the name William front and center (in addition to a picture of Bilcheck in an Alabama polo and Bear Bryant houndstooth hat). However, his campaign signs all read “Bill.” They are also in Patriots colors—red, white and blue.
“That’s part of my door-to-door campaign,” he said, mentioning that he emphasizes the when he tells people he’s “the Bill Bilcheck.” “We’re in Patriot territory here so people love it. They’ll welcome me into their homes. You’re basically hitting doors to be 30 seconds in and out, and the next thing I know they’re serving me dinner.
“I tell them really, I’m not the head coach of the Patriots. I think my day job is a little bit more difficult than what he has going on with the Patriots.”
While the oddity of this particular elected seat forces judges to run under party identification, Bilcheck said he hopes people realize he’s straight and narrow, down the middle. He apologized during the interview multiple times for sounding both “too Republican” when talking about excessive taxes and “too Democratic” when he talked about the courts being open and accessible to the people.
Either way, he hopes he can wrangle a few extra votes out of his famous association. He said he has a warmer personality than what Belichick is known for, but wouldn’t rule out going door-to-door in a sleeveless hoodie.
Also, unlike the Patriots, he’s trying to limit any potential controversy.
“Look, there’s no Spygate, and my wife didn’t make me cut my hair like [Tom Brady],” he said. “However, my wife, Holly, is like my Gisele.”
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