By Jesse Roman Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — Fierce rivals John Tierney and Richard Tisei will meet onstage for just the second time of the campaign tonight, offering North Shore residents a rare chance to cut through the noise surrounding the 6th District congressional race and hear from the candidates directly.
The debate, which will also include Libertarian Daniel Fishman, begins tonight at 7 at the Danvers High School auditorium and is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Tierney, a Democrat from Salem, and Tisei, a Wakefield Republican, have both been subject to blistering attacks as super PACs, state and national party organizations, and the campaigns have thrown millions of dollars at the race, one of the most competitive and vitriolic in the nation.
Republican groups have called Tierney a do-nothing liar and implied he is a crook, while Tierney and Democrats have cast Tisei as the next coming of Rush Limbaugh. Neither man has bothered much to hide the contempt he has for the other.
Sometimes lost in the constant attacks are the candidates’ substantial differences of opinion on Medicare, health care reform, how to grow the economy, taxes and much more. Come hear what they have to say.
The debate, sponsored by The Salem News and The Jewish Journal, will last about 90 minutes and include several questions from a group of panelists covering a range of topics.
Battle of ads
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its first video ad of the campaign yesterday, which again tries to align Tisei and tea party members.
“Behind Richard Tisei’s campaign — tea party congressmen and their campaign cash,” the narrator says, showing Tisei with Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, John Boehner and others flanking him on either side. The ad cites Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare and Republican votes “to restrict women’s access to birth control and cancer screenings.”
The ad follows up a Tierney campaign ad released Oct. 4 that claims Tisei “defended” the tea party Republican platform banning abortion, by saying on a WCVB interview in August, “It is what it is.”
Tisei responded with a campaign Web video with full clips of the WCVB interview in context. The second question, posed by co-host Ed Harding, asked Tisei if he would go so far as Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who wrote a letter to leadership urging the party to change its platform on abortion.
“I’m pretty libertarian, I know what I believe in. I don’t think the government should be controlling people’s lives and individual decisions. Individual liberties should remain with the individual, not the government,” Tisei said in response. “I think Scott Brown was right to do what he did, and I don’t feel comfortable with every plank in the Republican platform and I know Scott doesn’t either, but it is what it is and I know what I do believe in.”
“Now Tisei and the tea party Republicans want to restrict access to birth control,” the Tierney ad says. “What it is — is too extreme.”
Beverly resident Kerry Healey, the former lieutenant governor and now a top Mitt Romney aide, came to Tisei’s defense, saying in a statement: “As a pro-choice Republican, I can attest that Richard Tisei was consistently one of the strongest and most vocal advocates for a woman’s right to choose during his time in the Massachusetts Senate. John Tierney should be ashamed of himself for suggesting otherwise.”
The Tierney camp stood by its ad in the accompanying statement upon its release.
“The ad uses Mr. Tisei’s own words to expose his defense of the right-wing Republican platform that turns back the clock on women’s rights,” the statement said. “When Washington Republicans, the same ones running Tisei’s campaign, adopted the most extreme party platform in history inspired by tea party rhetoric, Tisei defended the platform, saying, ‘It is what it is.’”