SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 12, 2012

Benton: Brown, Tisei could tackle gridlock

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — A poll this week showed U.S. Sen. Scott Brown holding a slight edge over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Tierney’s efforts to link opponent Richard Tisei with the more extreme elements of the Republican Party shows the desperation the incumbent is feeling as he seeks to hold onto the seat on which he has had a stranglehold for most of the past 16 years.

Both races hold significance nationally, as the election of moderate Republicans like Brown and Tisei is essential to breaking the partisan gridlock in Washington regardless of who occupies the White House beginning in January 2013.

Elsewhere in the country, tea partyers like Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann and Illinois’ Joe Walsh are in deep trouble. Their extremist positions on everything from taxes to social issues have resulted in a stalemated Congress.

Indeed, we suspect House Speaker John Boehner would welcome more moderate voices in the Republican caucus — voices like that of Tisei who, despite the best efforts of the Tierney campaign to paint him otherwise, is a pragmatist who during a long legislative career proved himself willing and able to work with the Democratic majority on Beacon Hill. That may be why Boehner was in town this week to help raise money for Tisei’s campaign committee.

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Despite their much-proclaimed differences in style and philosophy, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney face limited choices when it comes to reducing the deficit and dealing with conflict in the Middle East. The major fear for both is a Congress obsessed with things like limiting a woman’s right to choose and making the possession of firearms more of an obligation than an option for Americans, to the exclusion of anything else.

In last week’s debate, Romney scored major points by noting how, as Republican governor in a state whose legislature is dominated by Democrats, he was nevertheless able to get things done — things like the passage of a health care reform law that became the model for Obamacare. While Romney has not always been anxious to claim credit for that piece of legislation, he has seemingly come to the realization that the bipartisanship that produced it is what a majority of Americans are looking for in this election.

On the other hand, voters both here in the Bay State and elsewhere are wary of a government dominated by one party or the other. They favor balance and accomplishment over the corruption and obstructionism that has been seen too often lately both in Washington and statehouses.

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Former Peabody City Solicitor Larry O’Keefe, who passed away earlier this month at age 75, was one of the genuine good guys in a city known for its rough-and-tumble politics.

During the almost three decades he served as the chief lawyer at City Hall, O’Keefe was unfailingly polite and patient with reporters. Back in the day, those who covered the Tanner City beat always knew they could score a twofer — O’Keefe and Mayor Peter Torigian — by dropping by Brothers Deli in Peabody Square, where they would likely be having lunch but still be more than willing to chat about events of the day.

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Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.