Tisei Seeks A Republican Upset On The North Shore

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The field of candidates in the 6th Congressional Disrict is now more streamlined. Independent Seth Moulton, who had considered a run, has decided to stay out of the race.

That leaves three declared candidates in the North Shore race: Libertarian Daniel Fishman, Democratic incumbent Rep. John Tierney and Republican Richard Tisei.

The GOP sees Tisei, a former state senator, as its strongest chance for a congressional seat in Massachusetts. And ever since Tisei entered the race, he has been out-raising Tierney.

Speaking from Washington recently, Tierney said Tisei's success at attracting money should come as no shock.

"Money's different than votes, and there's never been any surprise that Republicans would out-raise Democrats, but I think my opponent's money comes from the extreme conservatives down here, where he's had several fund-raisers with the likes of [Reps.] Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor and that group," Tierney said.

Actually, Tisei has been raising almost all of his money in Massachusetts. It's one reason the National Republican Campaign Committee considers Tisei its best shot at getting a GOP congressman elected in Massachusetts. Another reason: Tierney's troubles explaining to voters he didn't known his wife was handling proceeds from illegal gambling when she managed one of her brother's bank accounts.

Waiting for her Boston-bound train in Salem early one morning, voter Linda Start encapsulated Tierney's problem.

"I don't support what's happening with his family situation," she said, explaining why she won't vote for Tierney. "Sorry."

But this is Massachusetts, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1.

Few places in the state are as Democratic as Lynn, the most populated city in the 6th district. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Lynn by nearly 10 to 1. But Tisei is finding support even there. On a recent morning, he was at the Capitol Diner, and many of Lynn's small band of Republicans had gotten word that he was there. Insurance company owner John Olson was frustrated by the fact that so many people in Lynn rely on government support.

"All the social services are dumped in Lynn, and the inherent costs go with them, too, and I think that's an area where we need some change," Olson said. "When families took care of their own, we didn't have the issues that we have these days."

Rob Snook was just glad to find in Tisei a fellow Republican.

"You're Republican, so you're on the right side, I think, so far," Snook told Tisei. "There's a few of us around. Not many, but a few of us around."


So few that Tisei cannot hope to win just on Republican support.

But Republican political consultant Jeff Stinson believes Tisei has appeal with independents and Democrats.

"Richard needs to come close in some of the Democratic areas and win big in all the Republican areas," Stinson said. "He will do that."

During the GOP presidential primaries, Stinson conducted polling in the district, and found voters there prefer a Republican candidate, provided that he emphasizes economic issues.

"This is a fiscally conservative, socially liberal area," Stinson said. "In other words, if you were to poll the presidential race, Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, Mitt Romney was beating Barack Obama pretty heavily. Rick Santorum was losing very heavily."

Tisei is more Romney than Santorum, actually more liberal than Romney on social issues. And if he's elected, he would be the only openly gay Republican congressman.

But he says that's not what would make him stand out among his fellow Republicans in Washington.

"Being a Republican from Massachusetts would be more shocking to some members of that caucus than necessarily being a gay Republican," Tisei said.

Voters in Massachusetts often cross party lines to elect Republicans, but they haven't elected one to Congress since 1994. Asked what he would do to win over voters who might like a Republican governor or would be willing to vote for a Republican state senator, but who look at Washington and are reluctant to vote for someone who is going to caucus with the Republicans, Tisei had this response:

"Whether you like the Republican majority in Congress or not, the fact of the matter is that they are going to be in the majority after this election; there are very few who are saying that the House is going to change hands, and I think it would be a very beneficial thing for our state to have at least one member of the congressional delegation who can advocate for our state when decisions are being made."

By choosing to run in a presidential election year, Tisei has made his challenge harder. The chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, John Walsh, pointed out that Democrats have an especially strong advantage this year.

"In a presidential year, this district, like most of Massachusetts, will turn out substantially higher; more people will turn out, and those votes will trend Democrat, so I think that's a good start," Walsh said.

Democrats are giving Tisei another reason to be worried. They have another contest to energize them this year: the tight U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.

This article was originally published on July 24, 2012.

This program aired on July 24, 2012.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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