LOWELL -- Two years ago, a little more than 4,000 votes kept Richard Tisei from seizing Congressman John Tierney's seat out from under the seven-term representative.
"Things are worse now than they were two years ago," Tisei said Thursday. "I came so close two years ago, and I think things have gotten worse, not better, for everyone out there. And I think people are really hungry for a change."
Tisei, a former state lawmaker who launched his second congressional bid last month, told The Sun's editorial board he's hoping his campaign can pick up where he left off in 2012 -- within one percent of Tierney.
A Wakefield real-estate business owner, Tisei was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010 and served 26 years in the state Legislature, including a stint as Senate minority leader.
His campaign for the Sixth District congressional seat, he said, will focus on job creation, the negative effects of healthcare reform legislation on the state and "the fact that Washington, D.C. is about to go bankrupt."
"I view this campaign as a call to action for all the people out there who are really frustrated with what's going on," Tisei said.
He pledged that, if elected, the first bill he'd write would be to exempt Massachusetts from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, calling it a law with a "one-size-fits-all" approach that disrupted an already-working, if imperfect, health-insurance system in the commonwealth.
"We're a state that did our job," he said. "We found a way to insure everybody."
Of the six greater Lowell communities in the district -- Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury and Wilmington -- Tisei two years ago topped the ticket in five, losing out to Tierney in only Bedford. Districtwide, Tisei won 29 of 39 communities.
The bitter Tierney-Tisei contest in was one of the most-watched congressional battles throughout the country and the presumptive rematch is already drawing national attention.
Campaign-finance reports for the last three months of last year show that Tisei took in nearly twice as much cash as the sitting congressman.
Tierney's $228,000 in contributions was dwarfed by Tisei's $434,000, earning the incumbent a spot on Politico's "10 fundraising losers" list. The same political news outlet put the 2012 Tierney-Tisei showdown on its list of the country's ten "nastiest" races.
Tisei, the sole Republican seeking the seat, out raised Tierney by nearly $600,000 in 2012.
To face Tisei a second time, Tierney must first clear a three-way Democratic primary, fending off challenges from Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton of Salem and immigration lawyer Marisa DeFranco of Middleton.
After Tisei's official entrance into the race last month, Moulton issued a statement decrying him as a "career politician" whose Republican-influenced stances are "too extreme for the families of this district."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also blasted Tisei's candidacy, releasing a video that attempts to link him to Tea Party Republicans.
If elected, Tisei would become the state's first Republican congressman in 18 years and the first openly gay, non-incumbent Republican ever elected.
Criticizing both Democrats and members of his own party who "follow party lines blindly," Tisei said Thursday that he was "not going to be an ideologue one way or another."
"I feel like there are too many people in Washington right now who put love of party ahead of love of country, and that's why we're in trouble," he said.
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