BOSTON — In a reliably Democratic state like Massachusetts, Republicans typically see few opportunities for big congressional wins.
This year, the GOP is eyeing the 6th District, where they hope to unseat Democratic Rep. John Tierney, who’s held the seat since 1997. Two years ago, Tierney narrowly beat back a challenge from Republican Richard Tisei, a former state senator who’s running for the U.S. House seat again.
While Tierney has already been going after Tisei at campaign stops, he has a more immediate task – fending off four Democratic primary challengers.
One candidate, former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton, has benefited from a surprisingly strong fundraising effort.
By the end of June, Moulton had reported raising nearly $1.5 million – 99 percent of which came from individual donors and more than 50 percent which came from out-of-state backers.
That compares to the $1.7 million raised by Tierney, 40 percent of which came from PACs. The next closest candidate was immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, who raised $77,770 in the same time period, virtually all from individual donations.
Moulton said his fundraising is one indication of why he’s the strongest Democrat in the race.
“You create momentum at the end, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re seeing it in our numbers. We’re seeing it in our calls. We’re seeing it in the people we meet out in the street.”
Tierney rejects Moulton’s suggestion that he rode on the political coattails of President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“I’m confident we’re going to win the primary. I’m very confident we’re going to win the general,” Tierney said. “We have the issues on our side.”
In 2012, Tierney’s campaign was dogged by questions about what he knew of an illegal offshore gambling ring involving his wife’s family.
DeFranco, the only woman in the race and a former U.S. Senate candidate, has argued she’s the best candidate to go up against Tisei, calling herself a “known factor.”
“People know that even though I’m a Democrat, I’m independent-minded,” she said. “I’m going to tell them what the truth is instead of what they want to hear.”
Two other candidates, John Gutta and John Patrick Devine, are also on the Sept. 9 Democratic primary ballot.
Moulton’s fundraising has allowed him to begin airing television ads. That helped pressure Tierney to launch his own pre-primary ad highlighting his sponsorship of a bill that would let college graduates refinance existing federal student loans. Warren introduced the same bill in the Senate.
Moulton’s campaign called the ad “a clear sign that Seth Moulton is surging, and the Tierney campaign is rightfully worried.”
Tierney, in turn, has suggested Moulton is a Republican in all but party registration, saying he has accepted donations from people who have also supported Republicans.
“So they’re getting two bites at the apple,” Tierney said recently.
This year, Tisei was the beneficiary of a $350,000 ad buy from the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The 30-second ad, which ran on TV and online in May, portrayed Tisei as “an independent voice for Massachusetts.”
There are two other contested congressional primaries in Massachusetts.
In the 5th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark is facing Sheldon Schwartz, a doctor from Lexington.
Clark won the seat last year in a special election to replace Edward Markey, who took over the U.S. Senate seat of John Kerry.
Clark, considered the strong primary favorite, had $473,563 left in her campaign account at the end of June compared to $30,094 for Schwartz, who has self-funded his campaign. No Republicans are vying for the seat.
In the state’s 9th Congressional District, four Republicans – Mark Alliegro, John Chapman, Vincent Cogliano and Daniel Shores – are competing for the chance to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. William Keating, first elected to Congress in 2010.
By the end of June, Keating had $648,903 left in his campaign account – more than three times the combined total of all the other Republican challengers.
Five of the state’s incumbent Democratic representatives – Richard Neal, James McGovern, Joseph Kennedy, Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch – have no challengers in the primary or general elections.
In the 3rd District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas is facing Republican Roseann Wofford in November.