The North Shore race in the 6th Congressional District between Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei is becoming blistering. The two candidates held their fourth debate, on New England Cable News, Thursday night.
Tierney has spent much of this race arguing that he did not know that his wife handled proceeds from an illegal gambling operation run by her brothers. But the issue has not come up in his first three debates against Tisei because no moderator has brought up the question. Thursday, NECN's Jim Braude did, and Tierney used to occasion to pounce on Tisei.
"Richard, you have lied, and used insinuation and innuendo on this whole thing," Tierney told Tisei. "You spent $3 million doing it. My wife paid a terrible price on that. She took responsibility for not knowing on that. You have taken every day $3 million, mailings and TV, castigating her. She has grandchildren. She has children. She has friends. And your naked political ambition has let you take her and do this to her because you want a seat that you otherwise couldn't get. You can't run on the issues, Richard. You don't have a clue about what it takes to be a member of Congress and represent the middle class."
"This doesn't have anything to do with your wife," Tisei interjected.
"Then why don't you leave her out it?" Tierney asked. "Why do you have her picture on all the mailings that you give out? You have her picture on TV."
"You're the person who signed financial disclosure forms," Tisei accused.
"You're shameless," Tierney replied. "My financial disclosure forms are in impeccable order."
"I'm sorry, but you have the three largest public interest groups in this country: Common Cause, the Center for Responsive Politics, and---" Tisei began to say.
"Doing hypotheticals," Tierney interrupted.
"No, calling for a congressional investigation," Tisei said.
Tisei came back to hammer Tierney.
"You've known for two years that the money that came into your household was from an illegal source," Tisei said. "Why haven't you given up the money or turned it back over?"
"You've known for two years that that amount of money never came into my household, that that amount of money is fabricated," Tierney claimed. "You're misstating the federal government on that. There's no implication that my wife ever did anything wrong with her taxes or my taxes."
The third candidate in the race, Libertarian Dan Fishman, was not invited to the debate.
Tierney is outfunded for the tough fight ahead of him as he tries to keep his seat for a ninth term.
Tisei, a former state senator, could become the first Republican congressman elected from Massachusetts since 1994. A poll taken last week for the National Republican Congressional Committee shows Tisei ahead by 16 points. Tierney is doing his best to keep his seat by tying Tisei to the Republicans who control the House.
"Richard, they will kick you to the curb so fast," Tierney predicted. "Don't point your finger at me," he said testily.
"You voted 99 percent of the time with the leadership in the 16 years you've been in Congress, and that's exactly what you've done," Tisei said. "You've been part of the problem down there. I will do what I did in the state Senate. I will look at every issue individually, and I will make a determination what's best for the people in my district and the people in the state."
Tisei made it hard for Tierney to pin him to the national Republican Party. Tisei is gay and pro-gay-marriage and supports legalized abortion. Thursday night, he made it clear that he agrees with a lot of things that Tierney supports.
Tisei opposes eliminating tax deductions for mortgages and charitable contributions. He supports making it easier for women to sue if they're discriminated against. He opposes turning Medicare into a voucher system. He refuses to sign a pledge not to raise taxes, and he supports a federal assault weapons ban. Still, their differences will emerge again as the two candidates face off in two more debates.
This program aired on October 19, 2012.