By Jesse Roman
A little more than a year ago, former state Sen. Richard Tisei was aiming to become the next lieutenant governor; now the Republican has his sails set toward Congress.
Tisei announced his candidacy for the Massachusetts 6th Congressional District on Tuesday in his hometown of Wakefield, saying he wants to offer voters a clear alternative to incumbent Congressman John Tierney, the Salem Democrat who has represented Gloucester, Cape Ann and the rest of the district for the past 14 years.
"We know the country is headed in the wrong direction, and unless we work quickly, we're headed for an economic disaster," Tisei told about 50 supporters gathered in front of Wakefield's Americal Civic Center. "These problems did not originate here on Main Street. They started in Washington; our government is too big, disconnected, and every day becomes more dysfunctional."
The 6th Congressional District, which includes most of Essex County and parts of Middlesex County, recently gained Billerica, Tewksbury and part of Andover in a just-completed redistricting move.
Tisei was unambiguous yesterday in making a clear distinction between himself, Tierney and Democrats in general. He called President Obama's policies contrary "to the core principles that make our country so great" and said the president "has caused our standard of living to drop harder and faster than any other point in time."
Tierney, Tisei said, believes in higher taxes, more oversight, stimulus spending and bailouts, adding that he believes those measures don't work and only serve to stifle business and the economy.
Tierney is "the most ideologically left-wing member of Congress, which as you know, that's tough to do," Tisei said. "It you're happy with the way things are going, then elect John Tierney. If not, let's begin the process of putting this country in a different direction."
Tierney used Tisei's announcement Tuesday to blast congressional Republicans for recent proposals to cut government programs.
"It will be interesting to see how whomever emerges from the Republican primary will defend the position of House Republicans," said Tierney spokeswoman Kathyn Prael, citing Republican attempts to cut education grants, Social Security and Medicare, and to eliminate the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. "All of this, in favor of continuing a tax system that unfairly benefits people who least need it."
Tisei joins Bill Hudak in the Republican field, which means the two Republicans must face off in a primary to decide who will challenge Tierney in the general election next November.
Hudak, a lawyer from Boxford, tallied 43 percent of the vote in losing to Tierney in 2010. Tuesday, he said he "welcomed" Tisei's entry into the race.
"In other states, primaries are routine, and the emergence of them in Massachusetts, particularly among two strong and battle-tested candidates, is a sign that we are winning," Hudak said in a prepared statement. "This contest will make whoever wins the primary not only more able to defeat the incumbent, but also a better congressman prepared to meet our serious challenges."
Tisei was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1984 at the tender age of 22. In 1990, he was elected to the state Senate and later became Senate minority leader. Tisei, who is gay, is considered a social moderate. He gave up his seat last year to become the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker.
The Baker/Tisei ticket wasn't a winning one; they lost to incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray in the 2010 election.
Staff writer Jesse Roman may be contacted at email@example.com.