PEABODY — Bill Hudak's 17-month odyssey to unseat seven-term Congressman John Tierney ended last night in defeat and disappointment.
The Boxford Republican, surrounded by his family, thanked his supporters, who he said had become his family during his time in the race for Massachusetts' 6th District. His wife, Angela, stood with him and fought back tears as her husband addressed the crowd.
"I'm feeling disappointed, obviously," he said after leaving the stage. "I don't mind losing. You learn more through adversity and defeat. I don't like to let everybody down."
It was not just his own race, but the lackluster showing of the GOP in Massachusetts that left him downhearted.
"I am disappointed not so much for myself but for this state, which rejected any change from the path we are on," he told his supporters in his speech.
He entered the race, he said, because he felt the country was on the wrong track and the state was imperiled. He never sought the office for a "grander scheme," but to do the right thing, he said.
"The voters spoke and made a choice," Hudak said. "We live with that choice and hold our heads high."
He told the crowd in the Peabody Marriott's grand ballroom that they had put their faith in him and he wished he could give them a different result.
He also had few kind words to offer his opponent, after a race that had grown increasingly acrimonious in recent months.
Hudak said if the campaign revealed one thing it was the true nature of Tierney, who he said spent $1 million smearing the Republican.
"Honesty is honesty and dishonesty is dishonesty," Hudak said.
Hudak's campaign had energized many locals who had grown disenchanted with Democrats and Tierney.
Leone Wallace, a Salem independent, said she had never been involved in politics until she started volunteering for Hudak 14 months ago.
"I detest Tierney," said Wallace, who described herself as a former Democrat. Her decision to join with Hudak came about a year ago, when she felt the country had taken a turn for the worse.
"It's not the America I wanted my kids to grow up in," she said. "There's no respect for the Constitution."
Carol Denbo said she had grown concerned about Tierney's position on Israel. The Swampscott independent said she had rarely participated in politics in the past.
"I think he's taking his constituents for granted," she said of Tierney. "We need people who can listen."
Bill Rosenberg, a Marblehead independent, said two years ago he was apolitical, but the decisions of the Obama administration had prompted him to get involved.
"He has shown in a very short time that what was promised hasn't come to fruition," Rosenberg said.
Hudak said he planned to maintain contact with his supporters and forge alliances with fellow Republicans across the state. He also said he wanted to hold the Congress responsible.
He also planned to host another thank-you event for his supporters.
As for his long-term plans, Hudak said it was too early to decide if he would run again. This morning, at least, he planned to drive his daughter Joanie to the airport so she could return to college in Virginia.