By Jesse Roman
---- — Will they discuss their family issues?
That has been the prevailing question over the weekend in the 6th Congressional District race, as Rep. John Tierney and challenger Richard Tisei publicly sparred over whether Tierney’s family problems will be a topic of discussion at four upcoming debates.
The Tierney camp reportedly tried to squash any such questions about his in-laws’ gambling enterprise by asking organizers in two of the four debates that the discussion topics stay on public policy and policy matters.
Yesterday, Tierney tried to put that issue to rest, releasing a statement asking for the family questions to come.
“Today, I call on organizers of Thursday’s debate to make the very first question for candidates about family,” he said. “In working with debate organizers, my campaign’s intent was to make sure that serious issues like jobs, the economy and health care were not cast aside by my opponent’s negative attacks on my wife and her painful family crisis. ... I am happy to address this issue, as I have in the past, and had always expected Mr. Tisei to make it his central theme of the debate.”
One of Tierney’s brothers-in-law has been convicted of racketeering and other charges, while the other brother-in-law is on the lam, both in connection to their multimillion illegal gambling enterprise in Antigua. Tierney’s wife, Patrice, went to jail for a month last year after pleading guilty to helping one of her brothers file faulty tax returns.
Tierney held an hourlong press conference in Salem on the topic in July.
The Salem News, which is sponsoring a debate Oct. 10, did not receive any special requests from either candidate, and all three candidates — including Libertarian Daniel Fishman — agreed to the proposed format without complaint.
Tisei hammered Tierney after an initial news report in the Boston Herald in which two organizers said Tierney’s camp had requested to limit the debate to policy. Tisei reacted to Tierney’s call for family questions yesterday by slamming the congressman’s integrity.
“Like a leaf blowing in the wind, when Tierney saw how everyone reacted to his getting caught trying to change the debate rules, he turned around and changed them back,” Tisei said in a statement.
“Ethics is an issue in this race and should have fair play in these debates,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tierney’s camp earlier accused Tisei of dodging two debates already.
“He is clearly afraid of voters’ reaction to his tea party positions,” Tierney said yesterday.
The campaign’s first debate will be held in Lynn this Thursday and is sponsored by MassINC’s CommonWealth magazine. The Salem News and Jewish Journal will host a debate Oct. 10 in Danvers. The Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce will host the three candidates for a debate Oct. 17, and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce will host a debate Oct. 26.
The much-less-discussed third-party candidate, Fishman, has launched his first Web advertisement.
It had about 145 views on YouTube as of last night.
“Sometimes to afford one thing, you have to compromise on another. This is common sense. Where’s the disconnect between Congress and common sense? How can Congress keep spending money that isn’t there,” asks Fishman, looking right into the camera during the 40-second ad. “I am Daniel Fishman, and I am running for office because I believe common sense requires common people.”
Fishman, a 44-year-old software architect who has never run for political office, got into the race in early August by collecting the required 2,000 signatures. The Federal Election Commission has no campaign finance information on Fishman, but he told The Salem News in August that he had raised $400 so far and has contributed $4,000 of his own money to his campaign.
His opponents have each raised more than $1 million, according to FEC records.
Tisei town hall
Tisei’s campaign has announced that he will host a series of town hall discussions across the district from now until the November election.
Last Saturday, the Wakefield Republican hosted hourlong conversations with voters in North Andover and Amesbury, covering a variety of issues from deficit reduction and improving the economic climate to reforming America’s health care system, according to the campaign.
Tisei also hosted a telephone town hall discussion with about 12,000 seniors from across the district about Medicare, the campaign said.
Tisei’s campaign said it will try to host in-person town halls in as many towns and cities in the district as possible. Danvers will play host to the next meeting this Saturday, followed by another in Burlington. The times and locations have yet to be announced.