Few candidates enjoy the kind of “perfect storm” that enabled Sen. Scott Brown to win his U.S. Senate seat in a special election — powerful issues, a weak opponent and an anti-politician climate combining to create momentum and opportunity.
But Richard Tisei, a moderate Republican, is riding a similar wave in challenging Democratic Rep. John Tierney in the 6th Congressional District.
Last week, The Boston Globe’s Eric Moskowitz gave this update on the contest:
National Journal ranked it the 11th most likely to turn over among the 435 seats in the House. Last weekend, the Rothenberg Political Report, another nationally regarded nonpartisan observer, tipped the race to “Lean Republican” from “Toss-up.”
A poll last month by the University of New Hampshire gave Tisei a lead of 37 percent to 31 percent and since that time he’s continued to build momentum from advertising and news coverage. When an incumbent is under 50, he’s in trouble because undecided voters break for the challenger.
Brown won the 6th district with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Tisei might carry the district by a similar margin.
Tierney has been considered vulnerable for two years because of his family’s scandal. But due credit should be given to Tisei, a thoughtful and sincere man, and to his smart campaign. Even when members of Congress are plagued by scandal, it’s not easy to beat them. They are “entrenched” because for years they’ve used tax money and special interest campaign money to publicize that they are unusually dedicated public servants who use their clout selflessly.
Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan wrote Thursday about the challenger:
Tisei, meanwhile, is the sort of moderate Republican Massachusetts loves. He may be the only GOP candidate in the entire country “who supports gay marriage and who’s prochoice and who wouldn’t sign the (Grover) Norquist no-tax pledge,” he told me yesterday. “I have a history of being bipartisan and a problem-solver.”
Tisei, 50, a longtime lawmaker, ran on Charlie Baker’s ticket as lieutenant governor in 2010. “The problem in Washington right now is too many ideologues voting straight party line and as a result nothing is getting done,” Tisei said.
I’d say a problem in Massachusetts right now is that every single politician who represents us in Washington is a Democrat, save Scott Brown, who is in a very tight re-election race. How about a little more diversity around here?
One more plus for social liberals: Tisei could become the first gay congressman who didn’t try to hide it to get elected. Imagine what his win could mean for changing bigoted stereotypes among virulently anti-gay extremists.
The same day, in The Boston Globe, former state Sen. Nancy Achin Audesse praised Tisei in a letter to the editor:
I am appalled by US Representative John Tierney’s ads that portray Richard Tisei as a right-wing extremist, an accusation so absurd as to be laughable. Reasonable people can disagree about issues, but there is no excuse for misleading the voters. I applaud the Globe’s efforts to identify and correct misleading statements in many races, particularly the egregious untruths from Tierney (“Tierney ad attacking Tisei is misleading,” Metro, Oct. 5).
In particular, Tierney attempts to paint Tisei as anti-choice; Tisei is, and has always been, solidly prochoice. I know it; Tierney knows it.
I served, literally, alongside Tisei in the Massachusetts Senate. We occupied adjacent seats in the chamber. From this vantage point, I had the opportunity to see how effectively Tisei served his constituents.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer halfway through my first term, I saw what kind of man he is. I had the daunting task of facing a mastectomy and months of chemotherapy while in the public eye. There was never a day when Tisei failed to provide assistance, encouragement, and support. Extreme kindness, integrity, and decency — that’s the type of extremist we need in Congress.
Braude asked about the Tierney scandal and various congressional issues. The two candidates reiterated positions and points they have made before. Nothing seemed new.
Well, one thing struck me as new: Tierney looked at times like he was somewhat resigned to losing. He made his arguments but not with the conviction and energy of a politician who thinks he can still change minds.
Tisei seemed confident. He smiled when appropriate and appeared to be upbeat. Positive polling results, favorable publicity and being designated a likely winner by national political analysts will have that effect on a candidate.
Todd Domke is WBUR’s Republican analyst. For more political commentary, go to our Payne & Domke page.