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Superior son runs to be Mass. rarity

Scott Gunderson, a Superior native, stands in front of the U.S. Capitol where he hopes to serve as congressman for the 3rd District of Massachusetts. The Republican candidate who grew up delivering newspapers for the Evening Telegram and busing tables at Barker’s Island before a 20-year Naval career, hopes to capture a seat that has only briefly been held by a Republican since 1935. Courtesy of Scott Gunderson

A Superior-native is hoping to become a rarity in Massachusetts politics in 2018 — a Republican serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Scott Gunderson, a 1987 graduate of Superior Senior High School, is running for the 3rd District of Massachusetts seat, challenging Democratic incumbent, Niki Tsongas. He said the incumbent, and her husband, have been in power for decades, since the days when he was a 5-year-old walking his 4-year-old sister to Nelson-Dewey Elementary School in East End.

Niki Tsongas' husband, Paul, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979, when he joined the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1985 when a cancer diagnosis ended his Senate career after one term.

The congresswoman took office following a 2007 special election and has served ever since.

Gunderson, a retired Naval officer, hopes to end that run. If successful, he would be only the second Republican to hold the seat since 1935. Republican Peter Blute held the seat from 1993 to 1997 before losing his re-election bid to Democrat Jim McGovern.

The Democratic Party is well organized, said David Knupp, Gunderson's 24-year-old, Washington D.C.-based campaign manager, but victory is not out of reach for the Republican.

"I do think in 2016, a few cracks were shown," Knupp said.

"My opponent, the incumbent, Niki Tsongas, she sits as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee without ever serving in the military," Gunderson said. "I think it's shameful."

According to Tsongas' biography, she grew up in a military family; her father was part of the team that oversaw the build of Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

Gunderson said with more than 20 veterans a day committing suicide, more needs to be done about it.

"I, myself, am a disabled veteran, and I think my VA care is substandard," Gunderson said.

However, he said his experience as a businessmen and issues of taxation are drivers for him, particularly because Massachusetts tacks an addition 8 percent in taxes on top of the 35 percent federal tax businesses pay, which makes it difficult for business to remain efficient and competitive in a global market.

Gunderson today works as an aerospace and defense market manager, utilizing more than 20 years of experience in the U.S. Navy. He joined at age 18 following his graduation in Superior. In 1990, he got his chance when the Secretary of the Navy appointed him to the academy. After graduating from the academy, he went on to flight school and graduated from that in 1996 as a Naval pilot, serving aboard the USS John F. Kennedy. An officer, he served tours of duty in the Gulf War and in Kosovo, and he was pulled into the Marine Corps to serve in Iraq, rebuilding infrastructure in Anbar Province in 2007 and 2008. After returning from that, he became a senior flight instructor for the Navy — teaching the next generation of Navy pilots how to land on an aircraft carrier and dog fights. In 2014, he retired from the Navy and went into the private sector.

"I'm really appreciative of the education I got up in Superior," Gunderson said. "That's what set me up for success. Superior was just a great place to grow up and be educated.

"I don't think a whole lot of people realize how great the education that we received up in Superior was. All of my friends went on become very successful. I think the education I got up there had a lot to do with it. Superior being a small town it taught me a lot of values like community pride," he said.

But some of that education included the jobs Gunderson held while attending school, said his mother, Mary Gunderson of Superior.

Throughout his years at East Junior High School, Scott Gunderson delivered the Evening Telegram.

"That actually had a lot to do with who I am today," Scott Gunderson said. "I remember as a child that it was 20 degrees below zero, and I would deliver that newspaper. I didn't want to do it, but I did it. That really taught me something about myself. I learned about commitment and keeping commitments. It was hard work. I didn't want to do it, but I did it. I kept my commitments."

In high school, he got a job busing for the hotel that is now Barker's Island Inn.

"He just was a go-getter," Mary Gunderson said. "He never gave me much trouble ... he's a wonderful young man."

And she believes her son, who asked her to join him at Perkins for breakfast when he was in town three weeks ago, will be a good Congressman, because he will be "for the people."

"I would vote for him," she said, admitting that she is a Democrat. "I wish he was running here."

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