Metro Weekly

HRC unlikely to endorse in Tisei, Moulton race

Richard Tisei - Credit: Richard Tisei for Congress
Richard Tisei – Credit: Richard Tisei for Congress

The nation’s largest LGBT-rights organization is not expected to get involved in the Massachusetts congressional race between openly gay Republican Richard Tisei and pro-LGBT Democrat Seth Moulton, Metro Weekly has learned.

“HRC has not made an endorsement in the race, and is unlikely to do so before the election,” HRC Vice President Fred Sainz said in an email. Both Tisei and Moulton are supporters of key LGBT issues.

HRC, which has a policy of endorsing pro-LGBT incumbents, previously endorsed Rep. John Tierney (D) in Massachusetts’s 6th Congressional District. In September, Tierney suffered a surprising primary defeat to Moulton, a young Marine veteran vowing to keep the seat in Democratic control. Two years prior, Tisei lost narrowly to Tierney 47.1 percent to 48.3 percent. Many credited the win by a vulnerable Tierney, whose wife was mired in a federal tax scandal, to President Barack Obama and Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren being at the top of the 2012 ballot. In that race HRC also endorsed Tierney. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which seeks to increase LGBT representation, has endorsed Tisei the past two election cycles.

Tisei is one of two men seeking to become the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. In California, Carl DeMaio is attempting to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters for the state’s 52nd Congressional District. HRC has endorsed Peters in that race and representatives of the organization have been critical of DeMaio’s commitment to LGBT issues. 

The revelation that HRC will not endorse either Tisei or Moulton comes as HRC President Chad Griffin has embarked on a four state get-out-the-vote tour for candidates the organization says are crucial to maintaining a pro-LGBT majority in the U.S. Senate. Griffin is campaigning in Oregon for Sen. Jeff Merkley, in Colorado for Sen. Mark Udall, in New Hampshire for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and in Georgia for Michelle Nunn. All four candidates are Democrats.

“We are at a critical juncture in our fight for full equality,” Griffin said in statement. “The outcome of this election will impact whether or not we move forward or backward with fair-minded policies and legislation, and that’s why mobilizing LGBT voters and allies to get out and vote for equality-minded candidates is a key priority.”

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the National Organization for Marriage has spent more than $4,000 against Tisei, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In an Oct. 28 fundraising plea to supporters, Brian Brown, president of NOM, urged supporters to vote for Tisei’s more liberal opponent rather than send a Republican to Congress opposed to the “values of marriage, family, and life” that the Republican Party platform stands for.

“The National Organization for Marriage urges you to refuse to vote for Richard Tisei. In fact, we ask you to vote for the Democratic candidate, Seth Moulton, even though Moulton is also wrong on the issues,” Brown wrote. “The reason for this is that Moulton can’t do any damage as a Democrat in a House of Representatives controlled by Republicans, and we can work together to elect a true conservative in two years to replace him. But Richard Tisei serving as a supposed Republican in a House controlled by Republicans can do great damage, and could end up holding the seat for decades.”

NOM has also targeted DeMaio and Monica Wehby, a Republican who supports marriage equality and is running against Sen. Jeff Merkley in Oregon. Last month, NOM joined with the Family Research Council and CitizenLink in a letter to Republican leaders urging them to oppose the candidacies of those three GOP candidates.

“They seem foolishly hellbent on beating back Republicans who support marriage,” HRC’s Sainz said. “I’m sure at some point somebody ran a similar campaign in favor of the Dodo bird. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”

Recent polls have shown Tisei with a narrow lead over Moulton and the election is expected to remain close. According to Tisei’s campaign, the fundraising email from NOM illustrates what they have long argued — that Tisei can be an effective agent for change in Washington.

“Whether or not Richard Tisei can change Washington is the wrong question,” said Charlie Szold, Tisei’s communications director. “The right question is how much can Richard Tisei change Washington.”

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