If ever there was a race ripe for an independent or third-party candidate, the run for the 6th Congressional District is it.
A few months ago, Boxford attorney and Republican Bill Hudak seemed almost marginal. His absurd 2008 lawn display skewered President Obama and helped create the perception — false, as it turns out — that he's part of the fringe that questions Obama's birthplace. And the foolish sign seemed to cloud any chance of his mounting a serious challenge to incumbent John Tierney.
Yet Tierney — never widely hailed as the strongest of advocates for Cape Ann, in particular — is now under serious credibility clouds as well, claiming no knowledge whatsoever of his wife, Patrice's, criminal handling of tax returns and managing money from her brother's illegal Internet and offshore gambling gains. And a shameful series of advertising scare tactics — notably one falsely accusing Hudak of pushing to get rid of the home mortgage interest reduction, a claim Hudak has never made — has only raised more issues bordering on a betrayal of voters' confidence and trust.
That leaves voters with a bizarre choice between a challenger who has already shown poor judgment, and an incumbent in whom voters can, at this point, have little or no confidence.
A deeper look at these candidates makes that choice easier.
When it comes to Gloucester and Massachusetts' fishing industry, Tierney touts his push over the past year to bring a congressional oversight hearing to Gloucester, and his push for changes in NOAA enforcement, including the ouster of NOAA police chief Dale Jones. Jones remains on the payroll, but that push has finally taken hold in D.C.
Still, Hudak asks, "What took him so long?" And despite Tierney's protestations, there is a context to that.
Tierney notes that he worked in 2005 and 2006 to press Jones on enforcement issues, particularly when NOAA launched a full-blown legal assault on the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction. But Jones thought so little of Tierney he essentially ignored his call, and there was never any real follow-up. The truth is, NOAA's bogus regulatory schemes and enforcement problems date to at least the 2000 "trawlgate" case, when Tierney took minimal interest at best. And the 2009-2010 push for NOAA and fishery reform really came after a state legislator — Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante — had already pushed hard enough to spark full investigation from a federal Inspector General.
Hudak clearly gets it when it comes to dealing with the fishing industry. He recognizes that, at its core, the fishing regulatory issue is a jobs issue. And — as he puts it — fishermen aren't seeking a handout, they only want to fish, and work.
He also gets it when it comes to meeting with and listening to voters across the district. He wants the nation's immigration laws enforced and the borders secured. To do anything less, he says, is an insult to law-abiding immigrants. He believes massive new regulatory schemes such as the health bill and the "cap-and-trade" energy legislation still under consideration are creating uncertainty among business owners that is killing job growth. He's right.
Tierney, of course, would have us all believe otherwise. And his latest campaign ads and mailings claim Hudak would "eliminate the mortgage deduction." That would scare voters, if it were true — but it's not.
Tierney's campaign drew that assumption from Hudak's merely "being open to" some type of flat tax — "and that's what a flat tax would do," Tierney said during a visit to the Times. That's sneaky and misleading at best. And it follows Tierney's defiance regarding his wife's financial capers, when he shouted down questions from both the news anchor and Hudak during a TV debate — seemingly insulted that the matter would even be a campaign issue.
Hudak is far from a perfect candidate. His views on abortion are out of step with many district voters; his infamous 2008 Obama lawn sign — even as the "parody" or cartoon" he claims — showed poor taste and judgment. Yet he is clearly listening to voters, and we take him at his word in his promise to put the needs of his district first.
He deserves the chance to earn our trust and confidence — a trust and confidence Tierney has lost.
It's time for a change in the 6th District. That change can only come with electing Bill Hudak on Tuesday.