Openly-Gay Candidate May Help Mass. GOP End Losing Streak | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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Openly-Gay Candidate May Help Mass. GOP End Losing Streak

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Republicans in Massachusetts have lost the last 92 U.S. House races. That's a staggering number — the worst GOP drought in the country.

But, analysts say this year, the party might have a man who could snap that losing streak. He is vying for a seat in the Massachusetts 6th Congressional District, just north of Boston.

In many ways, Richard Tisei is a quintessential New England politician.

He even sports the classic side-part hairstyle with a bit of that Kennedy swoosh. Old ladies tell him he's handsome. He's a veteran state senator and a local boy.

But, he's also an openly-gay, pro-choice Republican.

Tisei skips the pizza at a recent event showcasing food from local restaurants, and instead goes for the more refined fig and brie toast.

A guy who went to high school with his sister comes over to say hi.

"I actually remember when you were the lone, young Republican," he says.

"I'm still the lone one, but I was young at that point," Tisei replies.

Tisei has no problem cracking jokes about the elephant in the room while he works the room. But, he also takes pride in voting the right way, not necessarily the party's way.

In fact, when the Massachusetts GOP platform endorsed "traditional marriage," Tisei boycotted the convention.

"My philosophy is that the government should get off your back, out of your wallet, away from the bedroom, and that's what the overwhelming number of people in this region and state feel," he said.

And, it is a message that resonates in this fiercely independent district — where 58 percent of voters have no party affiliation.

In fact, it even impresses some folks across the aisle, like Jack Russell.

"I'm normally a Democrat, but I'm voting the man in this case. If he swings too far to the right, I'm gonna have to leave him, but right now I don't think he is," Russell said.

Tisei walks over to shake hands with a man named Donald Green.

"Sorry, I'm a Democrat," Green says.

"That's okay. Gotta have a few around. A doctor though, how are you dealing with all the changes in healthcare?" Tisei says.

Tisei is campaigning against Obamacare, and that rubs Greene the wrong way. He says there's no way he'll vote for Tisei.

"I think diluting out the progressive power in the House of Representatives is not a good idea," Green says.

Massachusetts runs deep, deep blue. Tisei is trying to beat a man who's had the job for 17 years. He ran for this same seat in 2012 and lost by just one percent.

This time, he's challenging a battered incumbent who is also facing a primary opponent.

"I think the question is, if not here and now, then where and when in Massachusetts," says Steve Koczela, an analyst with MassInc Polling Group.

Koczela says registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans across the state, but that margin is smallest in the 6th District.

"There's the most favorable district in sort of a Democratic down year and, you've got a candidate who's about as non-ideological as you're going to find in Richard Tisei," he says.

If Tisei can't win, Koczela says he's left wondering how many more years it will take for the Massachusetts GOP to send a member to the U.S. House.

Copyright 2014 WBUR. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

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