Overcoming approximately $5 million in advertising dollars — much of it from Washington-based super PACs aimed at eroding his reputation — Congressman John Tierney completed an improbable comeback win over Republican Richard Tisei with impressive margins in the cities of Lynn, his hometown Salem and the fishing port of Gloucester to earn a ninth term in Congress.
The formal concession from Tisei was issued via email at 2 p.m. Wednesday, 18 hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The 2010 nominee for lieutenant governor and 26-year state legislator from Wakefield issued a statement in which he said, “I congratulate him (Tierney) on his victory” even as Tisei underscored “concerns about (electoral) irregularities in some areas of the district.”
Other reports Wednesday saw Tisei campaign manager Tom Moore raising questions about alleged voting irregularities in Lynn, where Tierney routed Tisei by a margin of nearly 3-to-1.
But Tisei’s statement Wednesday indicated that he’d leave “the investigation of those matters to others.”
Tierney effectively won the election by rolling up a lead of 23,429 in the three cities, highlighted by Lynn totals, in which the city with a major General Electric plant and 3,000 employees, went for Tierney, 21,631 to 8,122.
Tisei actually carried 28 of the 39 municipalities in the district, which runs from labor union, urban Lynn to polo-centric Hamilton and includes the heavily populated suburbs and cities along Route 128 and Route 1 starting in Saugus.
Tierney’s winning margin was 3,750 votes — or 1.2 percent — of 372,224 votes cast, and due to the presence in the race of Libertarian Daniel Fishman who drew 16,668 votes, Tierney’s winning percentage was a plurality, 48.4 percent.
Not even all Tierney operatives saw the comeback coming, but the power showed where Tierney and Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren “ran a coordinated volunteer effort” across the district, said Kristian Hoysradt, political director of the Tierney campaign who helped engineer Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s first mayoral campaign, an upset win in 2007.
“Thousands of volunteers made hundreds of thousands of phone calls and knocked on over 10,000 doors talking with voters about John Tierney and Elizabeth Warren’s fight for middle-class families,” said Hoysradt, a 2005 graduate of Gloucester High School.
“Locally, nearly 200 volunteers on Cape Ann were deployed to staging locations setup in supporters’ homes where they led our exceptional phone calling and door knocking efforts,” he added. “John hired local, experienced campaign staff who grew up in the 6th District and know the people and territory well. The campaign also had the backing of high profile past and present community leaders across the district who stood by him.”
Tierney, who was pummeled for more than a year with graphic advertising that insinuated he was aware or even somehow benefited from the illicit, offshore gambling business conducted from Antigua by his brother-in-law, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that “the field organization was worth several points.”
“It was one way to combat $5.5 million worth of junk,” he said.
Patrice Tierney’s brother’s offshore gambling scheme brought her to federal court to plead guilty to willful ignorance of the illegalities behind the finances she was managing for her brother. She spent a month in federal prison.
But state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante said Tierney was rewarded for 16 years of support for women’s and veterans issues and fighting for the fishing industry.
She said she felt an up-swelling of support for Warren on Halloween when, at an event at The Bookstore in the West End of Gloucester, she expected about 50 people and instead had between 200 and 300 show up to meet the woman who Tuesday broke through the glass ceiling and will be the first female from Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.
“Many of them were from the 55 and older generation,” said Ferrante during an interview at the Times.
As the Warren campaign gathered steam, so Tierney’s benefited, as well, and gave it some insulation from the incessant advertising, financed in large part by the National Republican Campaign Committee and the so-called Young Guns, a House group of ideologues, who had adjudged Tierney ripe for the political hit. Peter Torkildsen, who lost the 6th district seat to Tierney, contributed additional direct mail advertising which impugned Tierney’s credentials against terrorism and general integrity by reference to his brother-in-law’s gambling problems.
The Lynn margin for Tierney, 13,509, more than four times his districtwide margin, likely stemmed, Tierney said, from years of work to ensure that the GE plant remained active with Pentagon projects including an experimental jet engine, a health center for veterans, and a community health clinic for the city’s low- and moderate-income residents, including many immigrants. The health center serves more than 5,500 patients.
Gloucester, which also got a veterans health clinic during Tierney’s tenure, produced another 3,128 vote margin for Tierney, and his hometown of Salem was even better to him, adding another 6,762 to the plus side of the vote count.
Tisei gained back just less than 4,000 votes in his hometown Wakefield and 3,000 in Lynnfield where he co-owns a real estate brokerage, and won most of the Republican suburbs.
But the former lieutenant governor’s candidate could not overcome Tierney’s voter identification, a field organization integrated with Warren’s — and turnouts that brought President Obama’s 60-37 percent trouncing of former Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.