Massachusetts Doesn’t Elect Gay Congressman

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W. James Antle III Managing Editor
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Democrat Seth Moulton turned back Richard Tisei’s bid to become Massachusetts’ first openly gay Republican congressman.

What looked like it was going to be a rematch between Tisei and eight-term Rep. John Tierney was upended when Moulton defeated Tierney in the Democratic primary, improving the party’s chances of keeping the seat.

Moulton has emphasized both his progressive credentials and military service. “Although Seth was firmly against the Iraq War,” his campaign website says, “Seth served his country and led his platoon — eventually serving four tours of duty in Iraq over five years.”

Tisei was first elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1984. He won a state senate seat in a heavily Democratic district in 1990 and held it for ten consecutive terms. Tisei was the nominee for lieutenant governor on the unsuccessful 2010 Republican ticket.

He was married to his partner in 2013, nearly a decade after a court ruling brought gay marriage to Massachusetts.

Republicans last made their last House pickups in Massachusetts in 1992, even as Bill Clinton was carrying the state easily. Three scandal-tainted Democratic incumbents — Joseph Early, Nicholas Mavroules and Chester Atkins — were up for reelection.

Democrats tried to keep the seats by running primary challengers against all three endangered incumbents. Early and Mavroules won their primaries and then lost the general election to Republicans Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen, respectively.

Blute and Torkildsen both served two terms. Torkildsen was finally unseated by Tierney in 1996.

But Atkins lost the Democratic primary to Marty Meehan, who beat former Republican Congressman Paul Cronin in the November election. Democrats have continuously held the seat since then.

That was undoubtedly what Democrats hoped for when Moulton, a fresh face, beat Tierney, whose wife was convicted on federal tax charges in 2010. Tierney only beat Tisei by 1.2 percentage points in 2012, with Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren on top of the Democratic ticket.

When Moulton defeated Tierney in the primary, he declared his win meant “voters want to keep this seat blue.”

While Republicans have struggled to win federal races in Massachusetts aside from Scott Brown’s victory in a special Senate election, Tisei is one of several to come close.

In 2010, Republicans broke 40 percent of the vote in half the state’s congressional districts, including a surprisingly competitive contest with longtime Democratic Rep. Barney Frank.

Republican Gabriel Gomez came within 10 points of veteran Democratic Rep. Ed Markey in this summer’s special Senate election. Markey easily won a full term Tuesday.

Moulton’s victory means Republicans haven’t won a House seat in Massachusetts since 1994.

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