“I consider myself a Goldwater conservative. My philosophy is, I’m a live-and-let-live Republican. My philosophy is, the government should get off your back, out of your wallet and away from the bedroom,” Tisei said earlier this month at a deli in this working-class hamlet near where he grew up.
It is another example of the trouble Romney has had building an effective political coalition which, for a former governor, would traditionally include kindred home-state legislators.
But Tisei, who served in the legislature for 26 years, is also seeking to make history as the first openly gay Republican to win a seat in Congress as a non-incumbent.
The Republican platform opposes same-sex marriage and, if adopted into federal law, would prevent Tisei from marrying his longtime partner, Bernie Starr. Massachusetts law, however, allows for gay weddings and Tisei and Starr, who have run a real estate company together for many years, may be getting married after Election Day. “Stay tuned,” Tisei said of his marital plans.
Tisei’s candidacy has won the support of the entire House Republican leadership, including a $5,000 check from the PAC run by the vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
And the prospect of picking off a seat in Massachusetts has galvanized conservative support from outside the state.
Polls show a close race against the incumbent Democrat, John F. Tierney. But Tierney is in dangerous territory politically, with about 40 percent support in most polls. Some of his troubles may be connected to the highly publicized indictments of his brothers-in-law for running a gambling ring. His wife pleaded guilty two years ago to “willful blindness” in overseeing the finances of the $1 million-a-year operation, which Rep. Tierney has said he believed was a legal online gaming business. One of the brothers-in-law is a fugitive in Antigua.
‘Fully behind him’
Republican leaders are actively helping Tisei’s campaign, and they promise that his sexual orientation and his liberal views on gay marriage and abortion rights would not make him an outcast in their conservative caucus.
“We all came here from somewhere. It is the opportunity that drew us here, and he will have every bit of opportunity, as an openly gay Republican, as any other Republican,” House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) said. “I told him, we’re fully behind him. I’m supportive of his candidacy and look forward to serving with him.”