Richard Tisei has a real shot at making history in the Sixth Congressional District. If he wins he'll not only salvage the dying breed of libertarian leaning northeast Republicans he'll be the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. Democrats have tried to paint Tisei as some kind of Tea Party radial but they've largely been unsuccessful. He's pro-choice, supports marriage equality, isn't exactly a hawk on foreign policy, supports real drug policy reform, and in many ways is a squishy moderate.
Here's my profile of him from the November issue of Reason Magazine.
Richard Tisei is another GOP candidate looking to make history: He’d be the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. Tisei, a longtime Massachusetts state senator and onetime lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, probably would have been better off running in the Tea Party wave election in 2010, but an ongoing family scandal involving his opponent, Rep. John Tierney, has made this campaign one of the most competitive congressional races in Massachusetts since the late 1990s.
Tisei supports gay marriage and gay rights, but like all of the candidates profiled here is focused overwhelmingly on economic issues. When talking with The Hill he described himself as a “live and let live Republican.”
“I consider myself a libertarian in a lot of ways,” he says. “I think the government should get out of your bedroom, off your back, and out of your wallet. That is, I think, the traditional northeast libertarian viewpoint.”
Even though he has not signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, Tisei has a track record of opposing tax increases and fighting for tax cuts. He led the charge in the Massachusetts state senate for years to lower the state income tax back to 5 percent after its scheduled rollback was halted at 5.3 percent in 2002. In 2010, while running for lieutenant governor, he did sign the Massachusetts equivalent of Norquist’s pledge.
As senate minority leader in Massachusetts, Tisei opposed legislation that banned smoking in newly legal casinos, though the law eventually passed after he left office. Though not campaigning on the drug war, Tisei supports medical marijuana and backed a successful 2008 state ballot initiative that decriminalized possession of small amounts. When asked his thoughts on full legalization Tisei said he was open to it. He also opposes portions of the PATRIOT Act.
The big mark against Tisei is that he supported Mitt Romney’s health care reform bill when it was before the Massachusetts state senate. He opposes ObamaCare, and would vote to repeal it, but still defends his vote for the state version of the individual mandate. “The RomneyCare bill was 70 pages long. The ObamaCare bill was 2,700 pages long. It creates a whole new generation of government commissions and departments and bureaucracy that we’ll never get rid of,” he explains.
Tisei is challenging embattled Rep. John Tierney, an eight-term incumbent. Tierney’s wife Patrice and her family are caught up in a federal investigation involving her brother’s illegal offshore gambling operation. The arrest and conviction of his wife on multiple counts of “aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns” for her brother’s offshore operation wounded Tierney’s reelection prospects in 2010, but he was still able to fend off inexperienced Tea Party Republican Bill Hudak, a Massachusetts attorney. The scandal died down before resurfacing as a major part of the 2012 campaign when one of Patrice’s brothers, Daniel Eremian, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in the operation.
The Cook Political Report has slowly but surely moved the race to its “toss-up” rating. Tisei has had stronger fundraising than Tierney in recent quarters and is clearly benefiting from the very negative press surrounding his opponent. The major wild cards for Tisei are the historically incompetent Massachusetts Republican Party and whatever boost Tierney will receive from having President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.
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