By Jesse Roman Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — A national groundswell of support for Democrats on election night thwarted his quest to become Massachusetts’ first Republican congressman in 16 years, Republican Richard Tisei said yesterday in his first interview since the election.
“When you run for federal office, you can only control what you can control,” said Tisei, who suffered what many considered a surprising defeat to Democratic incumbent John Tierney on Tuesday, by a 1 percent margin.
“I thought we ran a perfect campaign as far as what we had to do to win. We outraised Tierney every quarter of the campaign, we built a huge organization from scratch, in every metric we did extremely well. Everything was perfect, but we were involved in a federal race and the mood of the country ends up impacting you.
“Obama was re-elected, and his campaign drew out a lot of folks who probably wouldn’t even be paying attention to this race. It drove out more Democrats than we had predicted,” Tisei said.
Tisei, a former state senator and a real estate businessman from Wakefield, still took pride in being the Republican congressional candidate who came the closest to victory in New England.
But that’s a far cry from where he was a few weeks ago, when he’d been endorsed by a string of newspapers and his team was so confident it ran a television ad with no narration, depicting nothing but waves crashing into Good Harbor Beach.
The day after his defeat, which he and his staff deemed too close to call on election night, Tisei conceded by email and refused to speak with reporters.
On Wednesday, “once everything was in front of us, we made the decision rather than have a big press conference, the best thing to do is send out a statement” conceding the race, he said. “It was John Tierney’s day.”
The silence after election day gave many the impression that team Tisei had been shell-shocked by the outcome, but Tisei downplayed that notion.
“We were confident (heading into the election), but we were also realistic,” he said. “Defeating an entrenched incumbent is no easy feat. The only surprise was the city of Lynn. We thought we would do a little better there, and that made the difference.”
On election night, Tisei campaign manager Paul Moore told reporters that there were “irregularities” in the Lynn vote, a claim Tisei has repeated.
When asked to elaborate, Tisei declined.
“I’ll just stick with what I said before,” he said. “At this point, I accept the results. I have no intention of going further. My campaign manager is a former assistant U.S. attorney and he was concerned about some of the reports of irregularities in Lynn throughout the day, and I understood why he was concerned.”
Tisei said he doesn’t believe there was any widespread voter fraud. The Lynn city clerk has called allegations of irregularities “unfounded” and said she received no complaints from voters or state elections officials.
Despite the stinging loss, Tisei said he has no regrets about his decision to run and would do it again.
“When you begin a campaign, the biggest concern you have is will people stand beside you when you go through the fight,” he said.
“I still find it unbelievable that so many people put in so much time and effort to support me. There was a huge group of people who were totally dedicated. It made me feel just terrific.”
Tisei’s next step is to go on a vacation and relax. He hasn’t had a day off in nearly a year, he said, as he has been campaigning almost every day since last November.
What comes after that is uncertain, but based on his attitude, there’s a chance that neither voters, nor John Tierney, have seen the last of Richard Tisei.
“I ran in the first place because I thought we needed better representation in Washington and because nobody was willing to work together to solve these big problems,” Tisei said. “I don’t see how any of that’s changed.
“I started something a lot of people responded to. Not many people gave me a chance of winning when I first started, but as time went on we picked up more and more people. We’ll see what the future brings.”