Sean Bielat's 2006 Mystery Campaign

Republican congressional candidate Sean Bielat took serious steps toward running for Congress in upstate New York in 2006, as a Democrat, according to several individuals who claim first-hand knowledge.

This would seem to contradict Bielat's descriptions of his long drift away from the Democratic Party. It would also undermine his recent argument that Joe Kennedy III lacks the resume to be a congressman, since Bielat was barely 30 years old, with virtually no business or political experience at the time.

The first-hand accounts come from people who are requesting anonymity, due to jobs that preclude or discourage them from engaging in political activity.

The Bielat campaign has not responded to repeated attempts for response, since the Phoenix brought the information to his spokesperson last week.

"He called me in early 2005, and asked me if I knew anyone at the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee)," says a long-time acquaintence of Bielat. "I said 'yes, why,' and he said 'I'm thinking of running for congress in New York."

Bielat had taken an interest in New York's 29th congressional district, near Bielat's childhood hometown of Rochester, in the previous election cycle. In 2003, when Bielat was studying at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, he became actively involved in the campaign of fellow KSG student Samantha Barend, who ultimately became the losing 2004 Democratic nominee there.

Bielat, according to two fellow KSG students, was one of a small core group helping Barend early on in that cycle. Emails provided to the Phoenix appear to show Bielat actively engaged in the Barend operation.

Contrary to how he would later describe himself -- as someone who had long been drifting away from the Democratic Party -- these classmates describe him as an active and committed Democratic operative, who bragged of doing opposition research for Democratic candidates.

And, they have little doubt that he wanted to run for office himself. "He told me that he was a little disappointed that Sam was running, because he was interested in running in the district himself," one says.

This former classmate says that Bielat later parted ways with the Barend campaign, and in the spring of 2004 "he actually started telling people that he was going to run against [Barend] in the primary."

That idea did not get off the ground, and Bielat moved to Chicago to take a job with McKinsey and Company.

However, soon after Barend lost to Republican Randy Kuhl in the November 2004 election, Bielat took serious steps toward running in the 2006 cycle.

He went to Washington to speak with people connected with the DCCC, among others, about his intention to launch a campaign. This included a one-on-one meeting with Eric Massa, the eventual Democratic nominee, who was already raising money.

Records show that around the same time, Bielat and his new wife, Hope, purchased a house in Canandaigua, New York, in July 2005. Hope Bielat took a job in the area soon after. (Bielat continued to work at McKinsey into mid-2006.)

Later in 2005 Bielat registered to vote as a Democrat in Canandaigua, a fact that was discovered and reported when he ran in 2010 as a Tea Party conservative Republican against Barney Frank.

At that time, Bielat responded by describing his party affiliation as merely a holdover from being raised by Democratic parents.

Those who spoke to me reject that notion completely. They point out that by 2005, when he was filling out that voter registration form, Bielat was no politically naive child -- he was a politically active and ambitious 30-year-old Kennedy School graduate.

"He was clearly a Democrat, selling himself as a Democrat," says one KSG classmate. "He was there because he wanted to go into politics."

With Massa (who was elected, and later forced to resign amid scandal) raising money and enjoying institutional Democratic backing, Bielat ultimately abandoned his plans. In mid-2006 he took a job with iRobot and moved to Massachusetts. In early 2010 he formally launched his campaign, as a Republican, in the state's 4th district.

He moved to Pennsylvania after losing that race, but returned to run again after Frank announced his decision to retire.
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