Congressman John Tierney and former state senator Richard Tisei will meet in a final debate Friday morning as their bitterly fought contest for the 6th District U.S. House seat hits the home stretch.
A third contestant, Libertarian Party nominee Daniel Fishman of Beverly, will also be in the debate sponsored by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, scheduled for Cruiseport to run from 8 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Fishman had not been invited to the most recent Tierney-Tisei verbal dual, which played out last week over the New England Cable News channel.
But it is the race between Tierney, seeking a ninth term, and Tisei, the 2010 Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, that has drawn national attention — for animosity developed over the circumstances of a 2010 criminal plea by Tierney’s wife Patrice and resulting campaign rhetoric that has both mesmerized and repelled.
Robert Heidt, the Chamber’s chief executive officer, said Wednesday that about 150 people had purchased tickets, which are priced at $35 in advance and $50 at the door. The price includes a breakfast, with the door opening at 7 a.m.
Moderating the event Friday will be Bob Visnick, the Rockport town moderator, while the questions to the candidates — submitted to and coordinated by the Chamber, will be posed to the candidates by three Cape Ann editors — Ray Lamont of the Times, Jane Enos of the Cape Ann Beacon, and Pat Slade of the Manchester Cricket.
“With everything we’ve seen, this campaign has gotten down and dirty,” said Heidt, adding that the debate will included only questions on issues, and none geared toward any personal attacks.
Those tactics, to date, have marred and stamped the contest as one of the most brutish in memory with Tisei and his proxy ad buyers accusing Tierney of cowardice and corruption, allegations that are contrived out of the murky circumstances surrounding Patrice Tierney’s guilty plea in 2011 and one month in prison for “willful ignorance” in blinding herself to the illegal gambling operations of her brother ,whose checking account she managed while he was living in Antigua.
One piece of direct mail advertising sent on behalf of Tisei screamed “Shame on you, John Tierney, for throwing your wife under the bus to save your political career.” Tisei has not disowned any of the advertising that has accused Tierney of dishonesty for insisting that he was unaware of the illegal actions of his brother-in-law to which Patrice pleaded that she had willfully blinded herself.
Tierney’s campaign, meanwhile, has continually tried to connect Tisei to a hard-line Tea Party had right-wing agenda — even though the Republican challenger is openly gay, has renounced the GOP’s national stand against gay marriage, and is, like Tierney, pro-choice.
Richard Gaines can be reached 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.