Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, seen here campaigning for lieutenant governor in 2010, is a unique candidate for Congress. An openly gay Republican who is libertarian on social issues and conservative on fiscal issues, he is taking on Rep. John Tierney.
Tisei, 49, is gay and has been with his partner for 18 years. They own a realty business together in Lynnfield and despite that, Tisei joked, still get along.
Local and national Republicans are excited about his prospects.
"I think he is a uniquely qualified candidate," said Brad Card, a Republican lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and Bay State native. He noted that for any Republican to have longevity in Democratic Massachusetts, they must be moderate and able to compromise.
Even though his views on social issues put him far to the left of the Republican mainstream, Tisei toes the party line when it comes to spending.
He campaigns against "Barack Obama and his allies" and paints Tierney, who voted with Democrats 99 percent of the time in 2010, as part of the "extreme rather than the mainstream."
But Tierney has more than rhetoric to worry about this year.
Tierney has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but Democratic and Republican strategists in the state agree that his political brand is suffering because of the legal troubles his wife faces.
Patrice Tierney recently testified at the trial of one of her brothers. She pleaded guilty last year to "willful blindness" in filing false federal tax returns for another brother's allegedly illegal gambling ring and served a month in jail. At the current trial, spousal privilege was invoked and she avoided answering some questions about her husband.
In an interview, Tierney insisted his wife's legal issues were fully aired: She pleaded guilty a month before he handily won re-election. As for the current trial, he thinks voters understand he's not responsible for his brothers-in-law. "You can't Google your family before you get married," he said.
Tierney said he plans to emphasize a national message and his constituents know "if you're going to vote for a Republican in the next race, you're going to be voting for Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio], for the partisan politics of all the pleasures they take to Grover Norquist." The Congressman says he is in tune with his district's political beliefs, calling himself "a passionate moderate with progressive values."
Tisei, who says he has never voted for a broadbased tax increase, has not signed Norquist's pledge. He faces a primary fight with attorney Bill Hudak, who was the GOP nominee in the district last cycle. GOP insiders believe Tisei will comfortably win the primary. Roll Call rates the race Leans Democratic.
Back at Brothers Deli, Tisei says he'll eschew the venomous partisanship if he gets to D.C. "I think you can stand up for what you believe in without being divisive and poisonous and pitting American against American," Tisei says. "I think most people understand that, too. They're tired of what's going on down there."