The political eyes of Massachusetts’ 6th congressional district will be squarely on Gloucester and its Cruiseport this morning.
That’s where eight-term Congressman John Tierney, Republican challenger and former state senator Richard Tisei, and Beverly Libertarian Daniel Fishman will face down a battery of questions — and no doubt one another — this morning in their final debate before voters head for the polls on Nov. 6.
In a year marked by sometimes dramatic debates — from the presidential clashes to the U.S. Senate race exchanges between Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren – the confrontations between Tierney and Tisei, with or without Fishman, have been the most contentious of all, inevitably degenerating at some point into a string of personal attacks between the two major party candidates. And those attacks have been fueled at times by a noisy audience, and even by a moderator, Jim Braude, who opened the head-to-head clash between Tierney and Tisei last week with a question that focused on the Patrice Tierney family gaming case.
That cannot happen this morning. Rockport Town Moderator Bob Visnick, who, by keeping a lid on that town’s potentially explosive town meetings shows he’s more than capable of handling today’s debate, will obviously go into the event with an eye toward maintaining an even keel, not sparking a shouting match. And all of the questions, submitted to and coordinated through the host Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, are expected to stick with the legitimate issues of the district and the federal government — so hopefully the candidates will stay focused, and the breakfast crowd will maintain decorum.
If that sounds boring by comparison to these candidates’ previous encounters, then so be it. But debates are supposed to be for voters to see and hear their candidates stake out their positions on key issues, and to learn about their stands as they prepare to vote.
Let’s hope today’s debate indeed helps voters make their decision 11 days from now. There’s simply no time left for political sideshows.