BOSTON — A Boston fund-raiser for congressional candidate Richard Tisei with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has given Massachusetts Democrats an opening to tying the Wakefield Republican with the national GOP agenda – a charge Tisei has emphatically denied throughout his run challenging eight-term incumbent Congressman John Tierney.
“Clearly, Speaker Boehner is not happy with the representation the voters of the 6th District (are) getting, because John Tierney is voting against the tea party-Boehner agenda,” Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said outside the downtown fund-raiser last week at One Federal Street. “What is true is that he’s found someone in Richard Tisei who’s going to support him, because, why else would he be here?”
Stopping outside to speak with reporters before the fundraiser began, Tisei dismissed Walsh’s claim that he had been “handpicked” by Boehner, and said the allegations about his agenda matching up with other Republicans is a sign of how Tierney’s campaign has “imploded.”
“It’s just nonsense. Anybody who knows me knows I’m my own person,” Tisei said. “You know, I have a 26-year record in the (state) Legislature. I have to be, in the entire United States, the only candidate who’s in favor of gay marriage, who’s pro-choice, who wouldn’t sign the Norquist tax pledge being called a tea party extremist.
“It’s just laughable,” Tisei said, “and I think it says more about John Tierney’s character than anything else.”
Tierney, who was not present outside the fund-raiser, is facing challenges from Tisei and from Beverly Libertarian Daniel Fishman in what has become one of the nation’s most bitter races, ripe with personal attacks and claims between the Tierney and Tisei campaigns as to which is more in step with and beholding to their national party’s leadership. Tierney, Tisei and Fishman will all be participating in a final debate set for Friday, Oct. 26, at Cruiseport Gloucester, hosted by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
Boehner, who had also campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Derry, N.H., last Monday, was unavailable to stop for questions en route from the fundraiser to the airport, his security detail told the State House News Service.
As the fund-raiser began, Democrats had a clutch of supporters beside the doorway to One Federal Street while a slightly larger group of Tisei supporters stood on the other side of the doors.
A Tisei tracker videotaped Walsh throughout the event.
The race between the incumbent, Tierney, and former state Senate minority leader, Tisei, for representation of the 6th District on the North Shore has been watched nationally and is seen as Republicans’ best chance to pick up a seat from the Massachusetts congressional delegation.
Walsh contrasted Boehner’s support for Tisei with the lack of support former Gov. Bill Weld received in his bid to become ambassador to Mexico. President Bill Clinton nominated Weld for the ambassadorship, but the appointment was blocked by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms.
“I remember when Bill Weld was going to be the ambassador to Mexico, the leaders of the Republican Party did not step up and support him because he was not going to be that kind of candidate,” Walsh said.
Tisei said that the whole state would benefit by having a Republican in the House delegation and said Tierney has been ineffective as a congressman.
“We do not have anybody in the (House) majority,” Tisei said. “There are going to be tremendous decisions that are made over the next couple of years that not only impact my congressional district but also impact the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“Right now, there’s nobody in the room from Massachusetts, because we have an all-Democratic delegation,” he said. “We’ve had John Tierney in office now for 16 years. During that 16-year period, he is the only member of the congressional delegation that has never sponsored a bill that’s become law. I want to have a different record of being an effective congressman and getting things done and being a problem-solver down in Washington, D.C.”
Former Republican congressman Peter Blute told reporters that having a balance in Washington benefits Massachusetts and said of Tisei, “He doesn’t follow the leader; that’s for sure.”
Asked why Boehner was in Boston for Tisei, Blute said, “It’s a party function. He’s helping candidates all across the country, who are Republicans. That’s not uncommon.”
Walsh said Tierney opposed Boehner’s multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and attempted to draw a connection between Tisei and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
“You look at Richard Tisei’s website today, it has completely adopted the Paul Ryan language on Medicare. ‘Preserve, protect, support Medicare.’ That language comes right from Ryan’s website, his messaging memos, Fox News. We know how Paul Ryan wants to do that; he wants to turn it into a voucher program,” Walsh said.
Tisei’s website, in fact, features a reprint of a Salem News column he wrote arguing for “bipartisan” solution to Medicare’s funding troubles and does not mention vouchers. The column does highlight Tisei’s opposition to what he calls “a 15-member unelected medical review board with unprecedented powers to cut seniors’ access to care by dictating payment schedules and limiting access to treatments and procedures. It will act as a rationing mechanism for care and will interfere with decisions that are typically made between a doctor and patients.”
According to FactCheck.org, which has repeatedly corrected statements by politicians about the board established by the Affordable Care Act, it is specifically barred from “any recommendation to ration health care” when it makes recommendations to Congress.