MARBLEHEAD — As if the 6th District race between Congressman John Tierney and challenger Richard Tisei couldn’t get more interesting — enter Seth Moulton.
The 33-year-old former Marblehead resident, Harvard graduate and military hero emerged from nowhere this week to announce that he’s considering a bid to represent his hometown district in Congress. If Moulton does run, it will add even more intrigue to a race that has already captured a lot of national interest.
“Honestly, the idea only came up very recently, specifically running for this seat,” Moulton said yesterday.
Moulton described himself as “a moderate” Democrat, but would have to run as an independent because it is too late to get on the ballot as a Democrat.
Moulton’s résumé reads like that of a man with serious Washington ambitions. After graduating from Harvard with a physics degree in 2001 and being selected by his peers to speak at graduation, he joined the Marines and went on to serve four tours in Iraq. During his last tour, he was a special assistant to Gen. David Petraeus during the much-publicized surge.
When Moulton returned stateside, he went back to Harvard to earn master’s degrees — in public administration and business administration — and worked briefly for Goldman Sachs. He plans to write a book about his military experience and has been featured prominently in national publications, television, radio, and in an award-winning documentary “No End in Sight” about the bungled aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.
He has pulled no punches in criticizing the war that he fought on and off for seven years.
“I felt a lot of the leadership in Washington was out of touch with the realities going on in the war. A lot of people saw that, and a lot of Marines saw that,” he said, adding that many of his fellow Marines urged him to run for office at the end of his tour.
“The decision to go to war and put the lives of some of our youngest and best citizens at risk is the most important decision anyone can make,” he said.
Moulton moved to Dallas eight months ago to be managing director of Texas Central Railway, a firm looking to build a high-speed bullet train in Texas.
While he and his résumé suggest political ambition, Moulton admits that it wasn’t his idea to get involved in the race between eight-term Democratic incumbent Tierney and former Massachusetts state legislator Tisei. Phone calls started coming his way, he said, after the gambling scandal involving Tierney’s wife was resurrected in full force last month.
“Obviously, there is some concern about (Tierney’s) electability, which is what prompted the calls to me, but my desire to serve transcends” that situation, Moulton said.
Asked if he was urged to run by members of the state or national Democratic Party, Moulton said, “I’d rather not get into those discussions right now.”
The Democratic Party of Massachusetts said it hasn’t contacted Moulton.
“We continue to believe that John Tierney has consistently and relentlessly fought for his constituents and deserves to be re-elected,” said Kevin Franck, the Massachusetts Democratic Party spokesman.
Tierney’s wife spent 30 days in jail for filing false tax returns for her brother, a fugitive who prosecutors say runs an illegal, multimillion-dollar offshore gambling business in Antigua. Another of her brothers was recently sentenced to prison in the same case. Both brothers-in-law called Tierney a liar last month for denying knowledge of their illegal activities, and the campaign has been scrambling to do damage control.
When contacted yesterday, the Tierney camp seemed unfazed by Moulton’s possible candidacy.
“Anyone is welcome to participate in the democratic process. No matter who enters the campaign, we are confident that John Tierney will win this election because he is the only candidate in this race with a proven record of fighting for middle-class families,” said Grant Herring, Tierney’s communications director.
Tisei’s campaign, which has enjoyed some momentum since the Tierney scandal picked up steam, took a “the-more-the-merrier” approach to Moulton’s possible candidacy.
“It’s hard to run a campaign in Massachusetts from Texas, and collecting signatures is not as easy as it seems, not to mention the money that’s needed,” said Paul Moore, Tisei’s campaign manager. “Anybody that’s willing to do that better hop on a plane and get to it, because it’s a lot of hard work.”
On how it might affect the race, Tisei’s camp also remains confident.
“Richard is a very strong candidate, and I would frankly be very comfortable with whoever we’re running against,” Moore said.
If he decides to run, Moulton said he would quit his job and move back to Marblehead. He’s billing himself as a change candidate, but, it appears, he knows how to toss a well-timed barb.
“I am very much a Washington outsider, and I think people realize Washington could use a breath of fresh air,” Moulton said. “Richard Tisei says he’s a Washington outsider, as well, but remember he was first elected to office when I was 5 years old. I’ll be a very different kind of candidate.”
But getting to Washington, or even into this race, is a very long proposition.
Moulton wouldn’t be backed by either party, has no organization in place, and has only until July 31 to gather the 2,000 signatures needed to earn a spot on the November ballot. He has limited name recognition, and the only election he’s been a part of was a failed attempt at student council treasurer in the sixth grade.
“Absolutely, those are all very important things to look closely at,” he said. “I’ll look at the facts and figures and at if and how I can mount a real challenge right now. ... I won’t enter the race if I don’t think I can win.
“The time frame is urgent, but I want to make this decision carefully,” he said. “I will devote as much time as I can to make a decision in the next few days.”