What’s at stake in the Tierney-Tisei race

Richard Tisei

As David Filipov puts it in his front-page Boston Globe story today, “It was a good week to be Richard R. Tisei.”

Indeed. U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, is in meltdown mode over claims by two of his brothers-in-law that he was well aware of the family’s illegal gambling enterprises. The story was broken on Thursday by Julie Manganis of the Salem News, who reported that Daniel Eremian fingered the congressman just after receiving a three-year federal prison sentence. On Saturday, the Globe’s Michael Levenson got a second brother-in-law, Robert Eremian, to whack Tierney.

Tierney is scheduled to meet with reporters later today to say once again that they’re lying. Could be a tense Fourth of July cookout for the Tierney-Eremian clan tomorrow.

But it’s still too early to know whether Tisei, a Wakefield Republican, former state senator and Charlie Baker’s running mate in the 2010 gubernatorial election, will be able to capitalize on Tierney’s woes.

Tisei is a moderate and a genuinely nice guy. I covered him in the 1980s when he was beginning his political career and I was a reporter for the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn. Back then, reform-minded Republicans like Tisei were occasionally able to work with Democrats and have an effect in the Legislature. Those days are long gone.

I ran into Tisei at the town pancake breakfast in Danvers this past March. Same guy — personable, greeting everyone. He seemed to be having a good time. Obviously he is an enormous improvement over William Hudak, the extreme right-winger who ran against Tierney in 2010. As an openly gay man, Tisei will not be able to excite the social-conservative crowd; but that’s a crowd that you could fit into the phone booth these days. (For you young’uns, this a phone booth.)

I also covered Tierney’s congressional campaign for the Boston Phoenix in 1996, when he unseated Republican incumbent Peter Torkildsen two years after losing to him. Tierney has always struck me as sharp and quick, if not especially warm.

The question is, do such atmospherics matter, and will Tisei be able to take advantage of Tierney’s troubles? The U.S. House of Representatives, more than any other elective office, is an institution where the color of your jersey matters more than who you are.

If elected, the first thing Tisei is going to do next January is vote for John Boehner as House speaker. Last Thursday, Tisei popped up on NPR to say that, yes, he voted in favor of Romneycare, but that he would vote to repeal Obamacare because, well, you know.

We all wish it were otherwise, but party identification is very close to the only thing that matters in Congress. I suggest that folks in the Sixth District figure out where Tierney and Tisei stand on the issues that matter to them and vote accordingly. You’re choosing how you wish to be governed — not whom you want living next door.

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14 thoughts on “What’s at stake in the Tierney-Tisei race

  1. Rick Peterson

    Ironic that the 2:00 presser will be held at the Hawthorne Hotel, the investment that got Tierney-predecessor Mike Harrington jammed up with the FDIC.

  2. Tom Underwood

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2012/07/03/john-tierney-seeks-address-nagging-questions-overshadowing-reelection-campaign/lX62MZmreWfGxPRjKAxaAM/story.html

    The court of public opinion will have the final verdict.

    Having met both, Tisei has a very good chance. All of the attributes that you mentioned, Dan. Although, as the label moderate republican is becoming obsolete, hard to imagine him having much clout in his own party anytime soon.

    Meanwhile, a brief graphic/photo on WCVB about Tierney story had a “Courtesy of Bill Hudak” tag. He lives!

  3. Al Quint

    … I kind of wish Tierney had decided to not run for re-election although who on the Democratic side would have stepped up to run?

  4. Mike Benedict

    This is classic he said, he said reporting. What gets lost in the noise is that both of Tierney’s brothers-in-law are felons and that his wife insists that Tierney had no knowledge of any of this.

    But why would we believe her?

  5. Julie Manganis

    Thanks for the shout out Dan, but I do want to point out that Laurel Sweet from The Herald was also there when Daniel Eremian made his comments. We both had the story. I may have been faster getting it out on Twitter (fearing that she’d make it back to The Herald, now a stone’s throw from the federal courthouse, to file, before I got back to the North Shore).

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Julie: If you got it out on Twitter first — and I think you did — then you broke the story.

  6. Brad Deltan

    L.K., if you favor integrity over ideology, I’d like you to name me a single member of Congress you’d still vote for. One does not get to Capitol Hill with clean hands. Mr. Smith does not actually get to go to Washington.

    In a two party system, it’s a real simple choice: if you like how one party is doing things, vote that party. If you don’t, vote the other. The particular failings and foibles of the individual members do not matter much.

  7. Mike Benedict

    Nial: True. But she wasn’t when she insisted he didn’t know, and she still insists that today.

  8. Mike Rice

    @Brad: So I guess what you’re saying is that Congress has morphed into a pirate ship of sorts. Sure, I’ll go along with that.

  9. Jeff Cox

    Just listened via podcast to an interview for Mr. Tisei on the HOWIE CARR SHOW via podcast. No questions, emphasis on “illegal aliens” and EBT fraud. Interview almost appeared scripted. There are many questions about the District, supporting government healthcare insurance, etc that are never mentioned.

    People are negative on elections because it is focused on attack of character rather than substance.

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