Sean Bielat is the first to admit he was a "political nobody" when he first got into politics by running against U.S. Rep. Barney Frank two years ago.
At the time, Frank, D-Newton, was a 30-year incumbent of Congress, chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee and a national media regular who was considered invulnerable in liberal Massachusetts.
Bielat was a 35-year-old newcomer to the state who had never run for office before. He was also running as a Republican, a party with only 12 percent of voters in Massachusetts.
It was an underdog role he came to relish. He said the public also appreciated his fighting spirit as he closed in on Frank in the last month of the campaign, only to come up short by 11 percentage points.
"All of a sudden, here was this political nobody giving Barney Frank a tough race. People love the underdog. It's the 'Rocky' thing," he said.
Bielat, who now lives in Norfolk, is trying to reprise his Rocky role as Frank is retiring and Joseph Kennedy III is the Democratic nominee for the seat.
He jokes that his wife Hope often asks if he could pick a less famous opponent to run against some time.
His wife is involved in the campaign, so Bielat can accurately say he has Hope on his side.
Kennedy has a glamorous political family name, a bank full of campaign cash and a large party operation behind him, but Bielat said he is not backing off.
He is trying to use the Kennedy name against his opponent, claiming Kennedy wants to inherit a seat in Congress while he wants to earn it.
"I don't come from privilege, but I do have a rich inheritance of values," he said when announcing his candidacy.
Bielat said he believes if he can get his resume of being a Marine and businessman before the voters, they will pick him over the more famous Kennedy.
The resume includes being an executive at a company called IRobot and more recently the head of a fledging political website.
The father of two small children, Bielat holds graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and, ironically, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
His background includes a stint as a intern for a Democratic member of Congress.
"He has an amazing background," said state Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro. "He's a Marine. He's a businessman. He has an MBA. He has an amazing resume."
Bielat also has a more experienced and larger campaign organization this time around.
He said his name recognition is now vastly higher than it was in 2010. His core of campaign volunteers has gone from 50 to a few hundred.
Redistricting has also changed the 4th Congressional District so it is less Democratic than it used to be.
And Bielat said he is more comfortable as a candidate now than when he was a rookie.
He went into the 2010 campaign with experience speaking to business executives, but doing a PowerPoint presentation loaded with sales data is different than talking to voters, he said.
The 2010 campaign against Frank took off right after Bielat won the Republican primary when a poll showed him within striking distance of the incumbent.
Campaign donations started pouring in from conservatives across the nation. Bielat said he collected $2 million in the last month of the campaign, compared with $200,000 in the previous months.
Whether his campaign can take off like that again remains to be seen.
A three-way Republican primary this time caused him to spend all but $63,000 of the $400,000 he had raised. Kennedy came out of the primary with almost $2 million.
But, Bielat won the primary in a landslide and his two opponents quickly endorsed him, despite exchanging some sharp words during the campaign.
"I'm supporting Sean because he professes smaller government, helping small businesses and job creation, just like I did," said David Steinhof of Fall River, who ran against Bielat in the primary.
Steinhof said Republican voters saw Bielat as their best chance of defeating Kennedy because he had run so hard against Frank.
"He had a fair amount of good will from the last time. He raised a lot of money and got good national exposure," Steinhof said of Bielat.
Although the district includes Democratic cities such as Fall River and Taunton, Steinhof said he detects a growing conservative sentiment in Bristol County that could help Republican candidates, including Bielat.
Poirier said: "Sean knows this is an uphill battle, but he believes in it."