And yet, just a week before the Nov. 6 election, that’s a distinct possibility.
As he did in 1984, Tisei would make history if elected: He would be the first openly gay, nonincumbent Republican to win a seat in Congress.
Tisei did not come out publicly until 2009, during his campaign to become the state’s lieutenant governor, though he says he wasn’t ever hiding the fact. His sexual orientation has added more national attention to his campaign but is not much of an issue in the district.
“It’s more of a curiosity in Washington and on a national basis,” he said. “People think it’s a bit odd that I’m not only a Republican from Massachusetts but a gay Republican from Massachusetts.”
At home, his sexuality has had “zero impact in the race,” he said. “The good thing is that people know me and judge my experience, my position on the issues, the fact that I’ve been around. ... On a day-to-day basis here in this district, the things people care about are jobs, the economy, whether or not their family will have economic security.”
Tisei believes his party, which passed the Defense of Marriage Act and voted overwhelmingly against repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is simply wrong on gay rights.
Tisei doesn’t have a flawless record, either, voting in the 1980s against a law that banned discrimination of gays and lesbians in employment and housing; he also once voted to prohibit the state from placing foster children with gay couples.
When asked his biggest regret, he points to those votes.
“I got caught up in the argument that they were special rights instead of equal rights,” Tisei said. “That was 20-something years ago. I feel like I’ve more than made up for it.”