David Frum

03.27.12

A Strong Republican for Congress...Who Just Happens to be Gay

539w

The Republican Party is backing an openly gay candidate in Massachusetts who could become the only gay Republican in Congress.

Massachusetts state senator Richard Tisei has received an endorsement from Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and faces lawyer Bill Hudak in a September primary. Should Tisei win that primary, the openly gay candidate would face eight-term Democrat John Tierney, who is vulnerable due to his wife's possible involvement in a gambling scandal. Tisei's stance on social issues may prove useful in courting Massachusetts independents. The Boston Globe reports:

Representative John Tierney’s reelection bid this year looks far more difficult than it has in the past. Legal proceedings involving his wife, Patrice, have dragged on, generating a stream of potentially damaging headlines, and the congressman this time is facing a far more formidable opponent. Richard R. Tisei, a 49-year-old Republican real estate agent, is a moderate with 26 years in the State Legislature and the full backing of his party. And unlike Tierney’s last challenger, Tisei has run a major campaign before.

Electing an openly gay Republican would be a watershed moment. To be sure, two openly gay Republicans have served in Congress, Steve Gunderson and Jim Kolbe, but they were closeted until harsh political tactics outed them in 1994 and 1996, respectively.

Tisei, who publicly announced he is gay in 2009, could become the first openly gay Republican to seek and attain a congressional seat.

There are currently four openly gay members of Congress currently serving. They are all Democrats: Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, and David Cicilline.

On March 21, Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, endorsed Tisei's candidacy:

“if elected, Richard would add his commonsense, conservative voice to Congress. His election is critical to efforts to advance pro-equality legislation, as he will be in a position to speak directly to his colleagues about how the legislation directly affects him and the millions of other LGBT Americans. Richard has long been a critical voice in support of the freedom to marry in Massachusetts, and as a member of the Republican majority, he will be critical in building support for repealing the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage’ Act. He will continue his support for combatting workplace discrimination and ending the domestic partner tax penalty. Log Cabin Republicans believe in making a difference from within the party as proud Republicans, and Richard’s presence in the GOP caucus will be invaluable to future efforts on behalf of freedom for all.”