Richard Tisei skipped Tampa, but House Republicans remain bullish on his candidacy
TAMPA – Former state Senator Richard Tisei, the Republican challenging Representative John Tierney, skipped the Republican National Convention. But despite the stand-offish scheduling, his candidacy remains a high priority for the House Republicans who are plotting strategies and entertaining their big contributors here this week.
Tisei represents the best opportunity for the GOP to improve on its weak representation in New England. The only GOP beachhead in the region is in New Hampshire, where both House seats are held by Republicans.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont are represented exclusively by Democrats. Massachusetts has not had a single Republican House member for 15 years.
``I think there was a mistake in the past with Northeast Republicans where they became moderate on everything,’’ said Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of the House GOP.
Tisei is openly gay and supports same-sex marriage, which puts him out of step with the rest of his increasingly conservative party. But he is fiscally conservative and makes a good pairing on economic issues with Republican Senator Scott Brown, Harrison said.
While the national Republican party is increasingly conservative and, therefore, increasingly out of step with moderate New Englanders, Harrison insists the House GOP can broaden its appeal and accommodate a wide diversity of views in the party.
``We have a national message with regional dialects,’’ he said.
Even though GOP nominee Mitt Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007, Massachusetts has been difficult territory for Republicans to crack because there are few registered Republicans, the media market is relatively expensive, and incumbent Democrats have enormous financial advantages. But in the case of Tierney, the incumbent has been weakened by questions about what he knew of a gambling enterprise run by his brothers-in-law. Tierney’s wife pleaded guilty in 2010 to helping one of her brothers file false tax returns and for being ``willfully blind’’ to the source of the income. Tierney has said he knew nothing of her involvement.
The NRCC thus far has disclosed it will spend $2.3 million in the Boston television market on spots on behalf of Tisei and the two Granite State incumbents, Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta. How that money will be apportioned has not been disclosed.
With the biggest advertising blitz coming in the Senate race, Brown may provide coattails for Tisei, even with an expected big turnout for President Obama.
``I think the biggest race in Massachusetts is the Senate race, not the presidential,’’ Harrison said, ``and we have a really great opportunity.’’
Get-out-the-vote efforts for the House race will be coordinated with the state party and Brown’s Senate team. The convention is the perfect opportunity for planning meetings between NRCC staff and state party officials from across the country. It’s also a key moment to reward top campaign contributors with a variety of swanky parties and lunch meetings.
Harrison was interviewed Tuesday by the Globe at the Westin Harbour Island, a short golf cart ride over a bridge from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the convention hall where Romney is scheduled to accept the nomination on Thursday night.Christopher Rowland can be reached at email@example.com.