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.