Ann Wofford Won’t Let Niki Tsongas Get a Free Pass

It's 'outrageous' to let an incumbent go unchallenged, so Wofford stepped up to the plate.

You probably know about Richard Tisei, the Republican North Shore congressional candidate who is facing Democrat Seth Moulton, after Moulton upended incumbent John Tierney in the 6th district primary.

And you might have heard of John Chapman, the Cape Cod Republican with support from Mitt Romney and other top names, who narrowly won his primary and is challenging Democratic incumbent Bill Keating in the 9th congressional district.

It’s unlikely you know about Ann Wofford, however. She’s the only other Republican candidate for Congress in Massachusetts, taking on Niki Tsongas in the 3rd district, which hugs the New Hampshire border from Haverhill to Winchendon, and follows Route 495 south through Bolton, Boxborough, and Hudson.

The district is considered relatively competitive, and Tsongas has several times barely cleared 50 percent against relatively unknown and outspent GOP opponents. There have even been competitive primaries for the chance to face her.

But this time, nobody stepped up—which is why, Wofford tells me, she decided to do it herself. “I just feel that is outrageous,” for the incumbent to go unchallenged, she says. “I do not feel that I am represented by my current congressperson, and I refuse to be told you have no choice.”

Wofford, a chemical engineer with 17 years in the private sector, was raised in Western Massachusetts and now lives in Haverhill with her husband and two daughters. She emphasizes fiscal responsibility, concerns about the Affordable Care Act (her husband works in New Hampshire, where just one provider participates in the health insurance exchange), and securing the borders against illegal immigrants. Her rhetoric, while not rabid by any means, is a bit too Tea Party-tinged for most of the state, but will resonate with a lot of people in that district.

So will her demands for more transparency in the federal government, and her charge of “dysfunction” in Washington politics. “It’s a separate world, where they help each other,” while the middle class stagnates, she says.

Similar platforms have not resulted in success before against Tsongas, when coming from Jon Golnick (in 2010 and 2012) or Jim Ogonowski (in 2007). But you only have to look next door, at Moulton’s surprising victory, to wonder if incumbents should be on high alert in that neighborhood. And Wofford suggests that she might be able to do better than her predecessors, by taking the gender card away from Tsongas.

At the very least, Wofford stands as a welcome female face for a Massachusetts Republican Party sorely lacking them. Good luck trying to remember the last Republican woman nominee, let alone winner, for Congress or U.S. Senate in the Bay State.

And, whether she’s worth a vote or not, it’s nice to see her—and Moulton, for that matter—showing the entrenched incumbents that they get no free pass. This state needs more challengers, both within and across party lines.

“The number-one thing that is said to me” on the campaign trail, Wofford says, “is ‘You’re very brave.’ You shouldn’t have to be brave to run for office—we need more real people running.” I couldn’t agree more.