Gloucester and Cape Ann voters looking for an ideal candidate to represent them as 6th District congressman for the next two years sure won’t find one on either side of the ballot next Tuesday.
Indeed, the battle between eight-term Democratic incumbent John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei, a former state Senate Minority Leader and lieutenant governor’s candidate has not only been one of the nation’s meanest, the candidates themselves continue to bring questions and baggage to the table.
Much of the race has not focused at all on the many issues at hand, but on the now two-year-old criminal case involving Tierney’s wife, Patrice, and her offshore gaming brothers. Both sides have raised past tax payment issues with one another, and Tierney’s campaign continues to paint Tisei as something he’s not, continually tying him to the right-wing Tea Party — a tough picture to paint when portraying a gay Republican who has renounced his party’s national stand against gay marriage and who stands as pro-choice on women’s reproductive rights.
None of the absolute garbage that’s shown up in our mailboxes —neither blistering anti-Tierney ads funded through a Super PAC launched by his predecessor, Peter Torkildsen, nor union- and Super PAC-backed claims against Tisei on Tierney’s behalf — legitimately helps voters make a decision when they go to the polls. But decide voters must. And it’s become clear in recent days that, when it comes to voters in Gloucester and across Cape Ann, that decision should be to re-elect John Tierney.
Tisei – who was just shifted last year into Tierney’s territory through the state’s Census-mandated redistricting changes — was presented with a glowing chance to make his case for this U.S. House seat. But largely campaigning on the theme that he’s not John Tierney doesn’t quite cut it as justifying the ouster of an eight-term incumbent who has represented Cape Ann fairly throughout his 16 years.
Much of that has come through Tierney’s work over the last two years on behalf of Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s fishermen. He has been the most persistent House voice calling for a change in NOAA leadership. And he voted against the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — the federal law that, combined with NOAA’s interpretation, has put the fisheries in the bind they face today.
But a vote for Tierney is not all about fisheries. The congressman has taken up the fight for Gloucester and Cape Ann when needed most — including when he delivered federal “inter-modal” transportation dollars to the revitalization of the once-decrepit Railroad Avenue area around the city’s commuter rail station. And he helped secure funding and a Veterans Affairs commitment to open and maintain the Gloucester veterans’ clinic — ensuring that Cape Ann veterans in need of health care services would not have to travel to Lynn or even Salem to get them.
Would Tisei keep up and step up the fight for those and other Cape Ann concerns? Would he try to stand, as Tierney has, against implementation of the so-called “sequestration” across-the-board budget cuts that, as of now, threaten to cost Cape Ann companies like Gorton’s, Bomco Industries, and Strong Leather significant Defense Department contracts?
Perhaps. Tisei, in fact, says he does not support the so-called Ryan budget, an austerity measure named for the Republican Party’s vice-presidential nominee. Yet he says it would be “a good starting point” in budget negotiations. And it’s that type of double talk that has, in many ways, clouded his campaign.
Look, Tierney is far from a perfect lawmaker, far from the ideal candidate. Yet he has a track record on which Cape Anners can rely. And it’s telling that, 10 days ago, nearly two dozen current and past Gloucester officials turned out to stand behind him.
One of those was Republican John “Gus” Foote, who served more than three decades on the Gloucester City Council, and who worked with Tierney on fishing issues and a variety of other concerns. Why? Because, as Foote put in a letter to the Times, Tierney “always put Gloucester first.” And in these uncertain times, that’s a priority commitment that neither Gloucester nor other Cape Ann voters should simply toss aside.
Yes, Tuesday’s election brings some hard choices – and perhaps none of them more difficult than choosing this area’s 2013-14 representative in Congress.
But all things considered, the better choice is Democrat John Tierney.