Peter Tedeschi is running against Congressman Bill Keating in the 9th District of Massachusetts.
Peter Tedeschi and his family have been longtime summer residents of Nantucket. Tedeschi’s name is best associated with a sprawling chain of convenience stores that his grandfather founded after immigrating to the United States from Italy. This fall, Tedeschi is running as a Republican for the ninth congressional district. He’s seeking to unseat longtime Democratic congressman Bill Keating based on a platform of fiscal conservatism and social pragmatism. As a first-time candidate, Tedeschi views his lack of political experience as an asset, having worked in senior management at Putnam Investments and as CEO of the company that bears his name. Tedeschi walks a fine line between supporting some of President Trump’s policies, while also showing a willingness to disagree on others. Candid, concise and affable, Tedeschi demonstrated an understanding of the complexity of Nantucket’s various issues during an expansive interview with N Magazine.
N MAGAZINE: There are many issues on Nantucket that mirror the issues elsewhere in the country. Certainly, immigration has become a big problem here. The president’s policy on immigration has been problematical here. As a Republican, how would you balance your party ties with a policy that is not easy on the Cape and the Islands?
TEDESCHI: I’m a Republican, but I have no problem going against my party when I feel like I’m doing the right thing. When it comes to immigration, we’ve kicked this can down the road for so long. We need to be sensible about it. First of all, we’re going to need to figure out what to do with folks who have been here illegally. And for folks who are here illegally — adults that came here illegally — I am open to offering them a pathway to permanent residency so long as they can pay their own way and obey our laws. For the potential DACA recipients, I have no problem offering them a pathway to citizenship. For an area like the Cape and Islands, where tourism is a one billion dollar a year industry, we need to be smart and sensible about how we handle H1B, H2B visas.
N MAGAZINE: So what would you do about the H1B and H2B Visa issue?
TEDESCHI: First of all, if you’ve been coming here for years [on an H1B or H2B Visa], there’s no reason why you should be caught up in the red tape. We need to open it up so that will then allow more of them to come in on a three- or six-month basis to service our service industries. We need that help, particularly in a big part of this area.
N MAGAZINE: You’re running against a long-standing congressman, Bill Keating. This is one of his signature issues. How do you think you could perform better than he?
TEDESCHI: I suspect that we are both philosophically very sympathetic to what needs to be done to help the service sector in the Cape and Islands area. Where we differ is in ensuring that we do things to secure our borders moving forward, particularly our southern border. I am going to be more focused on ensuring that we address the issue and fix the problem of immigration, so that we don’t continue allowing folks to flow into the country illegally.
TEDESCHI: The opioid epidemic has hit the Cape, Islands and South Coast particularly hard. There’s a few things we need to do. It starts with education and involving the medical community to ensure that they’re not over-prescribing medications. Then on top of that, it’s allowing law enforcement to do their job and stem the flow of these illicit drugs coming in, particularly ones like Alfentanil and fentanyl, which are killing people. I personally know folks who have overdosed. It’s tragic. It’s nondiscriminatory. It goes after everyone. But I think we need to stem the flow. Governor Baker’s done a great job on this front. It started with allowing people to come out of the shadows and to be able to acknowledge, without shame or retribution, that they’ve got an addiction issue and they need to get help. That’s where it started. Where it goes from here is stopping the ow of drugs coming in and helping those that need the help.
N MAGAZINE: Switching to an entirely different local topic, the fishing industry here has been impacted by the lack of protection that Nantucket’s waters have received from draggers and over fishing. For reasons that are not very clear, we do not get the same protection as some other places on the East Coast. How do we prevent large fleets from coming in here and over fishing our waters?
TEDESCHI: We have a number of industries that are sort of on their knees on Nantucket as well as the South Coast, and the fishing industry happens to be one of them. We need to work more closely with NOAA to ensure that we’re properly managing fleets and resources. There’s certainly more that can be done to protect the squid resources here on Nantucket, but you can’t do that alone. When making folks accountable for various catches, we need to take things like Nantucket squid population into account to ensure that we are able to maintain the livelihood of the folks that are on the island who rely on that. At the end of the day, we’re not just talking about industry, we’re talking about people trying to put food on the table.
N MAGAZINE: As a prospective politician in Massachusetts, how do you walk that fine line with the Trump factor? On one hand, you want the White House to be supportive of Massachusetts, but on the other, you know that you have an extremely liberal electoral base that you need to sway if you want to get elected. How does that play out?
TEDESCHI: I was interviewed recently for a TV show. The first question they asked me was are you a Charlie Baker Republican or a Donald Trump Republican? I’m more of a Charlie Baker Republican. Charlie has a great saying: “Be tough on the issues, soft on the people.” That’s the way it’s supposed to be. What makes me a Republican is I’m fiscally very conservative. When it comes to social issues, I’m more moderate. I care about people. That’s one of the things that differentiates me. It is a fine line you have to walk. Too many elected officials in DC are the problem. On Capitol Hill, the 16 percent approval rating stems from the fact that we have too many officials doing the bidding of the party instead of the work of the people. I want to change that. I will work with members on either side of the House. I really don’t care what party you’re from. If you’re going to help me do the work of the people that I represent, I will work with you. We need to get away from this polarity and partisan bickering we have in DC today. I’ve got a history in that as a businessperson, working with competitors for the betterment of the entire industry. I’ll bring that collaborative spirit to DC.
N MAGAZINE: We talked earlier that you are running against an incumbent that has been in office for a long time. Does the fact that he’s been in office for a long time mean that it’s time for him to go, or is there something about Peter Tedeschi that will be more effective in terms of our representation than Bill Keating?
TEDESCHI: Congressman Keating has been serving in office since the late seventies. He is a lawyer by trade and a career politician. I am a pragmatic businessperson. I am a problem solver. We have to make difficult decisions, and I am willing to do that. We’re piling debt on future generations — it’s just not fair, and it’s not right. We need to be sensible about it. At a twenty-thousand-foot level, my view of the world is that we have a moral responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. We have no moral responsibility to help those who won’t help themselves. I think our government needs to start trying a little bit harder to figure out who is who.
Congressman Keating considers partisan politics as part of the problem, but he’s ranked as the most partisan member of our Massachusetts delegation. He ranks 364 in the partisan index on Capitol Hill. That’s not encouraging. We need folks who are willing to do the work of the people instead of the bidding of the party. That’s the type of change that I can bring. I am more than willing and happy to work with members of either party to get the work of the people done. Congressman Keating is very visible when it’s leading up to the election and he needs people’s votes. That’s not how this is supposed to work. Being a representative means you’re supposed to be there when your people need you, and not just when you need their votes.