Belsito prepares to take on Moulton as a Dem

In 2014, she backed GOP’s Tisei in race for same seat

JAMIE ZAHLAWAY BELSITO volunteered on Republican Richard Tisei’s campaign for Congress in 2014 against Seth Moulton, but now she’s taking her own shot at the North Shore congressman as a Democrat.

“As the national conversation became centered on hatred and division, I proudly and purposefully became a registered Democrat,” Belsito said in an emailed response to questions, citing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender members of the military and cuts to reproductive health care among the reasons for joining the party.

In 2014, Belsito was an unenrolled voter who was all in for Tisei, a Republican former state senator, giving him a friendly interview on Beverly community access television, pumping him up on Twitter, volunteering, and introducing him at a campaign event.

In her email Tuesday, Belsito explained her support for Tisei, noting his status as an openly gay, married Republican who also supported women’s reproductive rights and who had connections with some of her family members. Tisei had a 100 percent score from NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts from his time as a state lawmaker.

Tisei, who is now a lobbyist – and a member of the board of MassINC, which publishes CommonWealth – said he had always thought of Belsito as a Democrat, although her voting record shows she has voted in both Republican and Democratic primaries.

“I don’t really think of Jamie as an incredibly partisan person,” said Tisei, describing her as a “free thinker” and a “terrific” person who “brings a lot to the table.”

Now as Congressman Seth Moulton mounts a longshot bid for president, Belsito is making a play for his US House seat. In an email obtained by Politico, Belsito said she is going to run for Congress in 2020. She established a fundraising account through the Federal Election Commission and began soliciting donations through Act Blue, an online fundraising firm catering to Democrats.

Moulton’s opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s reelection as speaker angered many in his party and some have promised he will face a challenger when he comes up for reelection in 2020. Barbara L’Italien, a  Democrat and former state senator, is considering running for the seat, and Rep. Lori Ehrlich, a Marblehead Democrat, is also weighing a campaign against Moulton, who wants to return to Congress if his presidential bid is unsuccessful.

Belsito presents a different type of candidate, having arrived in the Democratic Party only recently.

Five years ago Belsito was actively rooting for and helping Tisei, who had been the Republican Party’s lieutenant governor nominee in 2010 and looked like a good bet to disrupt Democrats’ complete control over the congressional delegation.

“Loving @Richard_Tisei and think he’s a WICKED good person!” Belsito posted on Twitter in June 2014. According to her resume, she volunteered for Tisei’s campaign from April 2014 through the election.

Late in the summer of 2014, in an interview on Beverly Community Access Media, Belsito presented herself as an “independent voter” during an interview with Tisei where she compared him to the legendary former House speaker and Bay State Democrat Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.

“I like the messages that you’re giving because we’re talking about just common sense,” Belsito said in the interview, which is available on YouTube. At another point, she told him, “I think in some ways party politics are dead, but it’s the only system that we have and I feel it’s fresh, it’s exciting what you’re talking about. I’m reinvigorated to be participatory in this particular election because of what you’re speaking about.”

As Election Day neared, Belsito tweeted at Donna Brazile, a prominent Democrat, that she was “100% supporting” Tisei. The candidate himself tweeted a photo showing Belsito introducing him at a primary night rally.

Despite her enthusiasm for Tisei, Belsito cast a ballot in the Democratic, not the Republican, primary. Belsito said she didn’t remember voting in the Democratic primary in 2014, but acknowledged that if the records said she did it was probably accurate. Tisei lost to Moulton in the general election 55-41.

In 2018, Baker appointed Belsito to the Salem State University Board of Trustees. She also serves on the Ellen Story Special Commission on Postpartum Depression. She is the founder of Effie’s Grace, which “advocates for positive policy outcomes in women’s perinatal, mental health, and reproductive wellness,” and advertises itself as a firm with specialty in state and federal government relations and advocacy. A one-time intern in Congressman Joe Moakley’s South Boston office, Belsito’s career has included some federal lobbying as well as positions in blue chip companies such as AOL, Raytheon, and Philips, where her resume lists her as the director of global mobility.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Belsito’s voting history in Topsfield and Beverly indicates she was unenrolled until recently, and voted in the primaries of both parties. She voted in the 2012 Democratic presidential primary when Barack Obama ran unopposed and voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. She supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and voted for Hillary Clinton in November 2016.