There are those who are calling Beverly Libertarian Daniel Fishman a “spoiler” for his role in the bitterly contested 6th Congressional District race. Democrats see him as a savior who helped return embattled incumbent John Tierney to office. Republicans see him as a self-absorbed dilettante who tricked citizens into “wasting” their vote, scuttling the chances of their best candidate in years, former state Sen. Richard Tisei.
Fishman was anything but a fringe candidate. As a campaigner, the software engineer was bright, straightforward and engaging. He was a welcome presence at the debates; his thoughtful, articulate and often witty answers were a welcome reprieve from the nasty back-and-forth between Tierney and Tisei. Not a few people in the crowd at the Salem News/Jewish Journal debate came away saying he earned their vote.
Throughout the campaign, Fishman stuck to the Libertarian message that government should be less obtrusive in people’s lives, and that neither the Democratic nor the Republican party holds to the principles of freedom set down by the founding fathers. While we feel the Libertarian platform sounds better in theory than in practice, Fishman’s convictions were deeply held, deftly stated and anything but fringe.
And yes, Fishman’s candidacy made a difference in the race.
Tierney garnered 48.3 percent of the vote, and Tisei 47.3 percent. The other 4.4 percent — a margin that helped guarantee Tierney a win — went to Fishman. Certainly, his party’s smaller-government political ideology is closer to the Republican platform than the Democratic platform. It’s safe to assume that had Fishman not been in the race, the bulk of his votes would have floated to Tisei, and perhaps today it would be Tisei who is heading to Washington.
But that was Tisei’s problem, not Fishman’s. Tisei had plenty of opportunities to make his case to the people who voted Libertarian. For whatever reason, he didn’t succeed, and we doubt any of the 16,000 or so people who voted for Fishman feel they wasted their vote. They voted for what they believe in.
As state Republican party leaders try to figure out how they came up short in a race they were widely expected to win, they should focus less on the 16,000 or so voters who backed Fishman and more on the nearly 180,000 who voted for Tierney.