By Mark E. Vogler Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Former state Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei made sure the subject of death and taxes came up last night as he engaged with incumbent Congressman John Tierney.
“If you’re going to die, you ought to do it before the end of the year,” the Wakefield Republican quipped, making a reference to a rising estate tax — one of numerous taxes that he says overburden Americans.
The comment drew loud laughter from the crowd in the North Andover High School auditorium, where the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted an hourlong debate on the 6th Congressional District.
It was one of the lighter moments of the forum, which escalated into more sparring between the two adversarial candidates.
Tierney, D-Salem, who is seeking a ninth term in Congress, got in the last words of the evening and may have drawn some of the loudest boos when he branded Tisei “a tea party Republican,” a reference that he’s made repeatedly during their often-vicious campaign.
Much of the debate featured a continuation of the ongoing Tierney-Tisei battle, overshadowing the candidacy of the third candidate — Libertarian Daniel Fishman of Beverly, a computer software writer who specializes in programs aimed at improving special education.
But Fishman, who portrays himself as the common man’s candidate, made the most of separating himself from his two sparring opponents.
“If you send these guys to Washington, it’s a vote for exactly the same government we’ve had for the last 100 years. It’s a vote for exactly the same process,” Fishman said.
The debate focused on the high cost of energy, health care, how to create jobs in the district, taxes and the national debt — primary issues of concern to the business community.
Moderator Sal Lupoli, owner of the Riverwalk complex on Merrimack Street in Lawrence and chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, repeatedly warned the audience that their frequent outbursts, either jeering or cheering the candidates, would take away time for additional questions.
The crowd didn’t listen.
So, the candidates only got five questions — including one from the audience.
But the event did allow each of the candidates to highlight their positions on business-related issues of local interest. The district includes North Andover and several precincts in Andover. Other area communities represented include Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury.
Tisei and Fishman highlighted concerns about the economy in their opening remarks.
“A child being born today will ultimately be responsible for $60,000 in debt before they ever take their first step,” Tisei noted. He also stressed a need “to stop all the name-calling.” A bipartisan effort was needed to turn around the economy, he said.
Fishman said the U.S. government would never be able to balance the budget if it continued to spend at its current rate.
But Tierney came out swinging from the outset, attacking Tisei, for accepting more than $3 million in campaign money from the Tea Party.
Tisei, who served 26 years in the State House, later castigated Tierney for being “one of the most partisan members of Congress.”
“The reason why the country is in trouble right now, there aren’t enough people who put America first,” Tisei said.
Tisei noted that during Tierney’s 16 years in Congress, “you’re the only one who has sponsored a bill that has never been signed into law.” Despite being a Republican in the state Legislature’s minority, Tisei boasted “I got a lot of bills passed.” He credited his willingness to work with Democratic party members to accomplish his legislative goals.
“I’m not friends of anybody in Congress,” Fishman said. He said his attitude toward correcting the economy and many other problems facing the country is to eliminate federal government interference.
“It cannot be responsible for what’s happening in the local neighborhood,” he said.
Tierney said an important investment for the country would be progerams to improve road, bridges and water infrastructures — an expensive cost, but one that would create more jobs and “not tax breaks for millionaires..”
The congressman said the federal government needs to “look into price gouging” at the gas pump and also get speculators out of the market place. He blamed speculators for adding at least 60 cents per gallon of gasoline.
Fishman said the federal government should not be interfering by subsidizing fossil fuel companies.
“We have been paying a lot less for gasoline because we have been subsidizing with our tax money,” he said. “Government intervention has definitely hurt us in the energy market.”