SALEM, Mass. One way or another, Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District will have a new representative in 2015, after former U.S. Marine Seth Moulton on Tuesday night defeated incumbent Congressman John Tierney in the Democratic primary.
Moulton’s victory marks the first time in 22 years that an incumbent congressman in Massachusetts lost in a party primary.
“I don’t need to tell you that very few people outside this room thought we could win,” Moulton, 35, told a crowd of cheering supporters at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post here.
Moulton pulled in 49 percent of the vote in a five-way contest with Tierney and three other Democratic challengers.
Tierney was already seen as vulnerable after barely winning re-election in 2012, amid questions about how much he knew about an illegal gambling ring run by his in-laws.
Moulton served four tours of duty in Iraq and has three Harvard degrees. He ran on the platform that in order to make progress in Washington, ineffective incumbents have to go.
“It’s not enough to blame the Republicans for a lack of progress at a time when our country faces so many challenges,” Moulton said in his victory speech. “And it’s cynical to think that we have to accept it because it’s impossible to work with the other side.”
In his brief concession speech, Congressman Tierney thanked supporters, saying he’s proud of his 18 years in office.
“I look forward to making sure that we have every opportunity to continue in public service one way or another,” he said. “Those are still viable goals and those are still things that need to be done in this country. But essentially what I wanted to say here tonight is how much we love and respect and appreciate everything that you have done.”
Moulton now faces Republican Richard Tisei, who is running for a second time after nearly defeating Tierney two years ago.
Tisei describes himself as a moderate Republican who favors small government and opposes the Affordable Care Act.
Moulton only mentioned Tisei briefly, but if his remarks are any indication, he will use a similar strategy to the one he used against Tierney.
“We won’t get fresh thinking and new leadership by sending someone to Washington who was first elected to office when I was 6 years old,” Moulton said.
Tisei said it makes no difference who he faces in the general election.
He lost by just one percentage point in 2012, an indication, he said, that he can win this time around.
“Seth Moulton has pretty much said that he will vote the same way that John Tierney has voted in Congress,” Tisei said. “And I think that most people in this district are ready not just to change the players necessarily, but change the direction.”
The question facing Tisei is whether the support he garnered two years ago will translate into the present and how many of the votes he got in 2012 were votes against Tierney, rather than votes for Tisei.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the percentage of votes for Moulton. He received 49 percent of the vote.
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