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October 31, 2012

Tisei seeking to make history

LYNNFIELD — It was March 1981 when 19-year-old Richard Tisei caught the politics bug. He had just been elected state representative for a day by his peers at Lynnfield High School and had gone, along with other student representatives from around the state, to the Statehouse in Boston. He sat in the House chamber, proposed bills, debated them and passed his first, albeit mock, legislation.

“When I came home that night, my parents asked me what I thought, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to be a state rep, because it was such a powerful experience,’” Tisei said from the Lynnfield office he now rents as headquarters for his run for Congress. “My parents weren’t even registered to vote ... They thought it was weird I was so interested.”

Interested enough that when he graduated from American University in 1984, he ran to represent the 22nd Middlesex District and won handily. At 22, he was the youngest Republican ever elected to the Massachusetts Legislature.

“My district hadn’t elected a Republican in 20 years,” Tisei said.

In 1990, he moved up to the state Senate and won 10 more elections in a row. Now Tisei is in the midst of a much larger challenge: attempting to unseat Democrat John Tierney in the 6th Congressional District.

The district has more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans; nearly every city has a Democratic mayor. Would voters here replace Tierney — one of the most liberal members of the U.S. House, whom they have elected eight straight times — with Tisei, who makes no bones about his desire to repeal Obamacare, extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and support portions of the Republican Paul Ryan budget? And yet, just a week before the Nov. 6 election, that’s a distinct possibility.

Gay Republican

As he did in 1984, Tisei would make history if elected: He would be the first openly gay, nonincumbent Republican to win a seat in Congress. Tisei did not come out publicly until 2009, during his campaign to become the state’s lieutenant governor, though he says he wasn’t ever hiding the fact.

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