MASSACHUSETTS IS guaranteed at least one new member of Congress next year, in the Sixth Congressional District north of Boston — where newcomer Seth Moulton, who beat US Representative John Tierney in the Democratic primary, now faces former Republican state senator Richard Tisei. Both are thoughtful and substantive candidates, which gives voters the good fortune to be able to evaluate this race on a higher level. Nevertheless, it’s Moulton who is poised to make the strongest mark, both at home and in Washington. The Globe endorses him for Congress.
Moulton emerged from near-obscurity this season with a set of high-profile backers, a list of well-financed friends, and an intriguing personal history. The son of antiwar liberals from Marblehead, he joined the Marines after graduating from Harvard in 2001 — several months before the 9/11 attacks — and soon found himself on active duty in Iraq. Moulton says he expected to serve a single tour. He wound up serving four, in increasing positions of leadership, and was decorated twice for heroics during battles with Iraqi insurgents. Until a Globe reporter inquired about his medals earlier this month — after discovering the citations in his military record — he never discussed his bravery on the campaign trail.
Moulton remains opposed to the long US war in Iraq, and he is critical of the Obama administration on some current matters of Middle East policy. He speaks with the perspective and gravitas of a combat veteran with experience in a critical region, and that background — while not a prerequisite for office — is nonetheless valuable. Veterans are rare in Congress today, and Moulton’s voice could be useful on matters of foreign policy and military oversight.
But Moulton is also knowledgeable about issues closer to home. He speaks with fluency and insight about, for instance, the fishing industry, offering new solutions to seemingly intractable disputes between the scientists who are trying to estimate fish populations and the fishermen who are struggling to maintain a livelihood. His business-world experience, working on public-private partnerships in transportation, suggests a base of ideas that could help spur development in Lynn and other cities and towns.
Tisei, a realtor who served 26 years as a Massachusetts legislator, is reprising the congressional run he made against Tierney in 2012, albeit with more measured stances on some issues. Two years ago, Tisei pledged to repeal Obamacare; now, he advocates a state waiver from some Obamacare rules, and says that, while he’d vote for repeal, he doesn’t think the issue is going anywhere. A fiscal conservative and social liberal, Tisei has a commendable record on Beacon Hill and offers a moderate voice that is sorely lacking in the current House Republican caucus. He, too, has an intriguing personal profile — he is openly gay, and married — that would make him an instant outlier in the GOP.
Tisei makes the case that he could help to change the party from within, and that his public image and personal connections would guarantee him the ear of House leadership. But it’s unclear how long his influence would hold if he strayed from his party on key votes. He risks the fate of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the House: shunted to the sidelines, with little actual sway.