WAKEFIELD — Republican Richard R. Tisei, a former state senator who narrowly lost a bid to unseat US Representative John F. Tierney in 2012, said he will officially kick off his second campaign for Congress here Thursday with a hometown rally.
His announcement will mark the start of what is expected to be the state’s most competitive congressional race in 2014. The North Shore-anchored district, which stretches from Bedford to Rockport to Salisbury, is the state’s least Democratic.
Tisei, 51, occupies a unique place in the GOP. Openly gay, he is a supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage, as well as smaller government and lower taxes. He emphasized his moderate brand in an interview earlier this week, saying would put what was best for his constituents before his party affiliation.
“I’m not going to become a combatant down in the partisan war that’s taking place in Washington,” Tisei said. “I’m going to do what’s best for the state.”
Over the hum of patrons eating breakfast at a diner in Wakefield Monday, Tisei said his bid would be focused on the Affordable Care Act.
“I intend to make Obamacare the central issue of my campaign because I believe that no other state in the country has suffered more under Obamacare than Massachusetts,” he said.
Tisei argued that the sweeping federal law has hurt this state’s citizens and that Massachusetts, which already had universal health care, should be exempt from it.
His party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010, Tisei said he did not know if the Affordable Care Act would be repealed but thought it hypothetically would be best for Massachusetts if Congress passes a law exempting states in which the vast majorityof people have health insurance coverage.
Focusing his campaign on the Affordable Care Act, which Tierney voted for in 2010 and has strongly supported, would mark a shift for Tisei from the pivotal issue of the 2012 race: the legal woes of Tierney’s family that related to an illegal gambling enterprise run by one of his wife’s brothers.
Tisei said this campaign would instead focus on Tierney’s record in Congress.
Tierney, who has not been charged with any crime and has maintained that he has done nothing wrong, ultimately won the 2012 race by one percentage point.
But he was battered, in particular by questions about $223,000 that his wife, Patrice, paid to herself over a number of years while managing a joint bank account for one of her brothers, federal fugitive Robert Eremian, who was running an offshore illegal gambling enterprise.
At issue was whether the congressman should have reported that money as taxable income on his federal financial disclosure forms and tax returns. He and his wife insisted the payments were gifts and thus did not need to be reported.
After looking into the matter, the House Ethics Committee said in September “that the presently available evidence was inconclusive as to whether the payments to Mrs. Tierney were income or gifts” and added it would take no further action.
For his part, Tierney is seen by Democratic operatives as being in a stronger position than he was in 2012.
He continues to garner visible support from key Democratic leaders. Tierney and US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi appeared together at a forum in Beverly in August.
The congressman attended a high-dollar Democratic fund-raiser with President Obama in October, after flying into Boston with him on Air Force One.
Tierney also faces a primary challenge from Seth Moulton, a former Marine, and Marisa DeFranco, an immigration lawyer.
In response to the news of Tisei’s bid, a Tierney spokesman, Daniel Rubin, e-mailed a statement, which said, in part, “The people of the Sixth District have already rejected Richard Tisei’s brand of divisive partisan politics.”
Since his loss, Tisei said, he had been focused on his real estate business. He said he did not plan to be a different person for this election.
“I’m not going to reinvent myself,” he said. “You know, I am who I am.”
But there was one visible difference between Tisei of 2014 and Tisei of 2012: He was sporting a wedding band. Tisei married Bernard F. Starr, his longtime partner, in July 2013.
The primary election is set for Sept. 9, with the general election on Nov. 4.Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.