By Richard Gaines Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — Agreement between bitter opponents about federal fishery regulatory failings and misdeeds trumped political ambition yesterday in the final debate between the 6th District congressional candidates.
But otherwise the Democratic incumbent and his Republican opponent lobbed ideological darts at each other in answer to seven questions, leaving Libertarian Daniel Fishman to describe how his approach might improve the nation.
For example, challenger Richard Tisei insisted that incumbent John Tierney was a Democratic Party go-along. This overlooked Tierney’s bipartisan bonding with Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to press the Obama administration to rid itself of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco.
For another example, Tierney insisted that Tisei had endorsed the budget and beat-Obama priority of the Republican Party’s Young Guns and Tea Party even though the liberal Boston Globe has endorsed Tisei.
The spending bills Tierney spoke about favorably — the President’s Jobs Act, and a “decent transportation bill” — are antithetical to the House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner who earlier this month came to Massachusetts to hold a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Tisei; for every time Tierney attempted to link Tisei to the House Republican leadership, Tisei scoffed off the association, saying he earned a reputation when he served in the state Legislature in the early 1990s as a non-ideological problem solver.
Tierney, he argued, was the partisan.
That gave Tierney pause to scoff. When the Democrats had a majority in the House from 2004 through 2010, “we reached across the aisle. ... The last couple of years has been a different story — take no prisoners,” was how he characterized the “beat Obama at all costs” strategy. In fact, Boehner has been less clear than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the primary goal of the Republicans in Congress was to limit Obama to a single term.
The debate between Fishman, Tierney and Tisei, who co-owns a real estate brokerage, unfolded in courteous fashion before a breakfast crowd that filled Cruiseport Gloucester.
Questioned by three Cape Ann editors, the 75-minute discussion — with minimal interruption, over-talking or direct argument — was the final scheduled debate in a contest that has often taken on a brutish aura from efforts by Tisei and his proxies to impugn Tierney’s integrity and even his dignity; they have insinuated he has lied in insisting he was unaware that his wife Patrice was managing the checkbook for her brother’s illicit gaming operation offshore.
Patrice Tierney spent a month in federal prison after pleading guilty to willful ignorance of the criminal enterprise.
Tierney has responded with anger and frustration, variously attempting to define as out of bounds his wife’s involvement in the criminal case aimed at her brother-in-law, and at others to confront it directly.
The charge counter-charge around that courtroom sideshow has worn on Tierney and given Tisei a better than fighting chance to win the bluest of blue states’ North Shore seat.
There was no hint of the sideshow yesterday.
Instead, Tierney reminded the audience that he had delivered for Cape Ann in transportation, education, sewer and water grants and the other municipal subjects linked by mandates — funded and unfunded — to the federal government and Washington, D.C. He reiterated relative mastery of the issues that have convulsed the fishing industry into crisis, recalling that he had voted against the re-authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which helped constrict catch limits enough that the NOAA declared the groundfishery to have become a disaster.
Tisei showed his bipartisan side in response. “I’m not going to criticize Mr. Tierney on this issue,” he said, adding that he too sees NOAA as an out-of-control agency. “I hope to be a strong advocate,” he also said, noting that he would almost certainly be a member of the majority and could and intends to request a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on fisheries, where he might be able to have an immediate impact.
Tierney warned that his main opponent, Republican Tisei, would become another extremist GOP vote in next year’s House, and Tisei, rejecting the allegation and describing himself as a bipartisan moderate, countered that a ninth term for Tierney would return another fiscal foot soldier for Obama spending policies and executive meddling to the 113th Congress.
The Health Care Reform Act, which Tierney supported, came in a drubbing by Tisei, who treated it as Exhibit A in executive overreach. He proudly compared the state’s prototype for Universal Health Care, approved by then Gov. Mitt Romney, to the “job killer” aka Obamacare. “There are 21 new taxes” that will go into effect after the election, Tisei added.
Tierney warned that Tisei supported the so-called Ryan budget (for Romney’s running mate Congressman Paul Ryan) and implied it would dismantle domestic programs. But Tisei said no, that he only said the Ryan budget was a good starting point for discussion. Still, Tisei made clear the size of the national debt bothered him greatly. “We’re going to be Greece pretty soon,” he added.
For his part, Fishman implicitly indicted both major parties for giving President Obama legislation, signed last New Year’s Day, which suspended “habeas corpus,” a limited constitutional right of the detained to be informed of charges against them, and went on to add that in general he wished the government did less law writing and spent less effort trying to create jobs.
Fishman got a laugh by quoting former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate, who said, “My two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than the government.”
He also defended his place in the debate and minor parties’ place in political discourse, and asked the audience to protest to WCVB-TV, Channel 5, for excluding him from the previous day’s 6th District congressional debate which was limited to Tierney and Tisei.