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Despite defeat, Tisei has no regrets

Lieutenant governor run ‘a great experience’

By John Laidler
Globe Corrrespondent / November 14, 2010

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It was not the ending Richard R. Tisei had in mind when he signed up to be the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker a year ago.

But the Wakefield Republican said that despite the defeat they suffered in the Nov. 2 election, he has no regrets about his decision to run for lieutenant governor.

“If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again because it was a great experience,’’ said Tisei, 48, the state Senate Republican leader.

“I traveled all around the state. I learned a lot about Massachusetts. I met an incredible amount of people,’’ he said.

“I didn’t have a bad day in the entire campaign. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way we would have liked. But . . . I was very proud to have stood by Charlie’s side and helped him during the campaign,’’ he said.

Tisei now is preparing for what will be his first break from public service since his election to the State House at age 22 in 1984. He served six years as a state representative, and is now finishing his 20th in the Senate.

Tisei said his immediate plan when he leaves office in January is to work full time at Northrup Realty, the agency in Lynnfield that he co-owns with his business and life partner Bernie Starr.

“My business has been growing every year, and it’s gotten to the point where this is good timing because I can concentrate on it full time and help it grow even larger. So I’m excited by that,’’ said Tisei, who began working at Northrup in 1982 and purchased the company with Starr in 2000.

Tisei said, however, he plans to “stay involved in government and politics. And in the future I would hope to run for something else.’’

While he said he has no specific plan in mind, Tisei has expressed interest in running for Congress. He resides in the Sixth District, which is represented by Salem Democrat John F. Tierney. He also will likely be mentioned as a future GOP contender for statewide office.

“If Richard decides to run again, he would be a terrific candidate for any office he may seek,’’ said Al Turco, who is chairman of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen and chaired Tisei’s lieutenant governor campaign.

“Richard brought a tremendous amount to the Baker-Tisei ticket in terms of his knowledge of . . . state government and his ability to raise funds not only in his district but throughout the state,’’ said Turco, a Republican State Committee member.

House minority leader Brad Jones of North Reading said he looks forward to his outgoing GOP colleague “remaining engaged in the political process,’’ and believes Tisei has strong potential as a future candidate.

“He’s run in a lot of elections,’’ Jones said. “He’s won in blue cities and red towns, and certainly, if that’s a direction he chooses to want to go in in the future, I think those possibilities will be there.’’

Looking back on this year’s race, Tisei said that campaigning as a running mate was a “little different than just being out there by yourself as a candidate.’’

But he said when Baker asked him to join the ticket, “I knew what I was getting myself into.’’

Tisei said he was motivated by a really strong belief that Baker would be an excellent governor, and a belief that “given my background, I would be in a great position to help him govern the state.’’

With his campaign driver and aide, Scott Conway of Melrose, Tisei crisscrossed the state, speaking before groups and raising about $2 million for the campaign.

“Everyone thinks Massachusetts is one state; it’s really a bunch of different regions,’’ Tisei said. “Like the Berkshires — I was really surprised that they are so disconnected from the rest of the state. You’d go out there and people sometimes were totally unaware of what was going on in Greater Boston.’’

Reflecting on the outcome, Tisei said: “Charlie and I did everything we could to win but at the end of the day this is still a tough state for a Republican to win statewide, and when you take on an incumbent governor, it’s very difficult to do.’’

He said it also turned out to be a very difficult year to run as a Republican in Massachusetts.

“Sometimes, the tide at the end of the campaign either sweeps you in or acts as an undertow,’’ he said. “In this case, we were positioned to win, but I think a lot of swing voters looked at what was happening nationally with the Republicans doing so well and just got a little nervous about electing Republicans here in Massachusetts.’’

Tisei, who represents Lynnfield, Malden, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and part of Melrose, publicly disclosed he is gay just prior to his selection as Baker’s running mate. He said he does not believe it hurt his campaign.

“Wherever I went, it was never an issue. I have a track record in government and people judged me on my record,’’ he said.

While he was pleased with the role he played in helping shape bills such as the education and welfare overhaul acts of the 1990s, Tisei said what gives him the most satisfaction is the assistance he was able to render to individual constituents.

“I had a district office open for 26 years in Wakefield and anybody could walk through the door who needed help,’’ he said. “And we were able to help them a lot of the time.’’

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