Rep. Tierney Facing 4 Opponents In 6th District Primary

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Democratic challenger Seth Moulton, left, and longtime U.S. Rep. John Tierney (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Democratic challenger Seth Moulton, left, and longtime U.S. Rep. John Tierney (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

For a Democratic incumbent in Massachusetts, U.S. Rep. John Tierney finds himself in an unusual predicament this election year.

Tierney, who won his last election by less than a percentage point, has four fellow Democrats challenging him in the 6th Congressional District primary.

At a Democratic forum at a retirement community in Peabody Wednesday, Tierney, who has represented the North Shore in Congress for nearly 18 years, received a hearty round of applause despite showing up 40 minutes late.

"While my opponents may have told you what they would like to do if they were elected, I'm the one person on this stage that can tell you what I've done. Whatever they say they'll do, I've actually done it, and I'll continue to do it in the future," Tierney told his constituents.

But experience and incumbency have not prevented fellow Democrats from jumping into the political ring to try and throw Tierney out.

Immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco is one of those challengers. She's not as polished as Tierney, but she's also not shy to speak her mind.

"If Mr. Tierney is so great at equal pay, when I started my practice in 1997 when he entered Congress, women were earning 75 cents to the dollar of every man. It is now 77 cents 17 years later, that is exactly his two cents worth," DeFranco said, chuckling.

But most analysts consider DeFranco's bid a long shot.

Democratic challenger Seth Moulton, left, and longtime U.S. Rep. John Tierney (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Democratic challenger Seth Moulton, left, and longtime U.S. Rep. John Tierney (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Candidate Seth Moulton has received more attention. He's a former Marine with three degrees from Harvard who thinks Congress needs more veterans. Moulton argued that Tierney hasn't done enough in his tenure.

"He's only passed one bill in 18 years, and if you compare that record to congressmen across the country, it's not a good record," Mounton said.

Moulton has raised nearly as much money as Tierney, but the latest polls show him way behind.

That's because he's only now turning his campaign into high gear, Moulton says. "We haven't spent the money yet. Because when you run for Congress as an insurgent, you have to create momentum at the end."

This is the first time Moulton's run for political office, making him a novice with little name recognition. But he says even if he loses, he will "absolutely" run again.

The two other Democrats running for the 6th District seat are John Devine and John Gutta.

Tierney is the frontrunner, but Stonehill College political science professor Peter Ubertaccio argued that the sheer fact that Tierney has to deal with these primary opponents shows that people think he's vulnerable.

"I think he's facing the challenge because of the closeness of the election last time around," Ubertaccio said. "And he just barely held that seat in what was generally a good year for Democrats in Massachusetts."

After the forum in Peabody, Tierney shook a few hands before darting out of the room with reporters chasing after him. He brushed off any questions about whether he feels unusual campaigning in a primary season as a veteran politician.

"People have primaries all the time," he said.

True, but for a Democratic congressman in Massachusetts, it's not that common.

"The unfortunate thing about it, most people say things without any foundation or fact, so you just have to grin and bear it and go on from there," he added.

And while the Democrats continue bickering, Republican Richard Tisei gets to enjoy the fight. He's the candidate who nearly defeated Tierney two years ago, and he has no primary opponent. His campaign said it's already focusing on courting independents.

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This segment aired on August 28, 2014.

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Asma Khalid Reporter
Asma Khalid formerly led WBUR's BostonomiX, a biz/tech team covering the innovation economy.



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