Surrounded by more then two dozen present and past Gloucester officials who lauded him for his service to the city on a wide range of issues over his eight terms, U.S. Rep. John Tierney, in a fierce struggle for re-election to Congress from the 6th district, was among appreciative allies and friends Tuesday.
”I’m honored to have everybody here,” said Tierney, who was adorned with verbal garlands for nearly an hour for his work on everything from education to transportation, health and veterans services to the disabled and the commercial fishing industry.
Former Mayor John Bell was speaking about his inability to “imagine Gloucester without John Tierney,” when the mood of the event, which began at 8 a.m. at the Gloucester House, was interrupted by relayed word that Patrice Tierney, the congressman’s wife, had been involved in a serious auto accident. (See related story.)
Tierney left to be with his wife, but the endorsements continued.
”I’m a Republican,” said retired longtime City Councilor John “Gus” Foote, and John Tierney has always been here for the fishing industry.”
State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and eight of the nine city councilors — all except Republican Robert Whynott — were present or represented.
The only discouraging words in the event were reserved for Republican nominee Richard Tisei, the most extreme of which came via smart phone from councilor, former mayor and Democratic stalwart Bruce Tobey, who was out of town.
“Your opponent,” Tobey’s voice said, “has mounted a relentlessly vile campaign.”
He was referring to the brutish attack on Tierney by Tisei and his political proxies, who have mounted a multi-million dollar, multi-media campaign targeted at Tierney’s handling of the 2010 criminal case involving his wife.
One recent piece of mailed advertising said, “Shame on you, John Tierney for throwing your wife under the bus to save your political career.” Patrice Tierney pled guilty to willful blindness in aiding and abetting her brother in the filing of illegal tax returns for an offshore gambling operation, and served a month in prison. Tierney was not drawn into the legal case and has insisted he was unaware of the activities of his brother-in-law to which Patrice agreed in federal court she had willed herself not to see.
Tierney began the event saying he was “honored to have everybody here.”
“The choices are pretty stark,” he said. “(They involve) how members of Congress treat local communities. Only one party stood up (during the recession) to get things done.”
He reminded the group he had opposed the war in Iraq, produced increased numbers of Pell grants — need-based higher education grants, voted to cut taxes on small businesses — ensured that Gloucester kept its community based outreach clinic for veterans and helped unlock federal funding for the redevelopment of the Gloucester commuter rail station which has blossomed into a mix of shopping and housing that changed the mood of the gateway from depressing and dowdy to modern and inviting.
Then, Tierney changed his focus and his tone, turning to the subject of his nemesis, real estate brokerage owner Tiesi, who was a state senator before his campaign as the 2010 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
“Hypocrisy” was the word Tierney used to describe Tisei’s recent campaign trip to Gloucester to claim his election would be better for fishermen. In a telephone interview, Tisei said he would be elected as a member of what certainly would remain a Republican majority House, and so, would give him a leg up on a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
To date, the House, with Tierney and fellow Democrat Barney Frank in a tight-knit bipartisan coalition on fisheries issues, has been constrained from overriding the Obama administration by a more cautious Senate which has remained barely in Democratic hands.
“(Tierney) has talked the walk,” said Ferrante. “He went to see John Bell about law enforcement abuses of fishermen, he held onto the issue like a pit bull and never let go.”
Notable by her absence was Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who has avoided endorsements of late. But in a letter published in the Times Tuesday morning, Kirk lauded Tierney’s work for the fishing industry “We have stood side by side at fishing rallies in Washington, D.C., as members of both parties from both parties from states up and down the East Coast have demonstrated their support for fishermen.”
Kirk said she was really bothered to see Tisei come into Gloucester a few weeks ago and use our fishing community to take cheap political shots at a congressman who has a long record of standing up for our fishermen.”
Asked for a response to Tobey’s characterization of the Tisei campaign as “vile,” Tisei’s campaign manager, Paul Moore, said in a prepared statement Tuesday that “John Tierney’s remaining friends are circling the wagons for him and it’s not surprising.
“He’s tried to control the questions that could be asked of him at debates...” Moore said, who added that the Tierney campaign was also guilty of conducting a “relentlessly” negative campaign.
Appearing at the Tierney endorsement event were Councilors Joe Ciolino, Sefatia Romeo-Theken, Paul McGeary, and Greg Verga. Absent but joining in the endorsement were Council President Jackie Hardy, and Councilors Melissa Cox and Steven LeBlanc. Also appearing were School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope, members Roger Garberg, and Tony Gross. Member Melissa Joy Teixeira was listed as an endorser, but did not attend.
Former state Rep. Tony Verga, David Bergeron, chairman of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission and Eileen Duff, the Democratic nominee for Governor’s Council in the Nov. 6 election, were also present.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.