July 3, 2012
By: David Filipov
READING — It was a good week to be Richard R. Tisei.
The Republican had been looking like a long shot in his bid to unseat US Representative John F. Tierney and break the Democrats’ hold on the Massachusetts congressional delegation.
But the Tierney family’s legal trouble, which boiled over last week when both of his brothers-in-law alleged that the congressman was fully aware of the illegal gambling operation that led to his wife’s conviction in 2010, have suddenly made the eight-term incumbent look vulnerable.
It’s the kind of opportunity that challengers wait for. But Tisei, 49, is an unlikely character to lead an uprising. On the North Shore campaign trail, he comes off as affable, yet toned down, his pressed shirts as neat as his slicked-back hair. He does not breathe fire. He does not speak in slogans.
Instead he seeks to win over voters with a promise that after 26 years in the Democrat-dominated Legislature, he knows how to reach across the aisle. He is an openly gay, pro-choice Republican backed by conservative party leaders in Washington. It is an unusual combination, but he says it makes him well equipped to break the partisan gridlock.
The possibility that the Republican could topple a Democrat and win a House seat in Massachusetts, which last had a Republican congressman in 1997, has made the race a priority for the GOP. The party is prepared to pour money into the campaign and even sent House Speaker John Boehner for a exclusive fund-raiser at the Taj Boston hotel last month. Washington oddsmakers have promised that this is a campaign to watch.