SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 12, 2013

Benton: An uphill race for Moulton

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — There’s no question Seth Moulton faces an uphill fight trying to wrest the Democratic nomination for the North Shore’s seat in Congress away from veteran incumbent John Tierney.

The North Shore’s congressman has not faced a challenge from within his own party since 2000 when he garnered 87 percent of the vote against Marblehead businessman David Francoeur’s 12 percent. (He went on to beat Republican Paul McCarthy in the final by a wide margin.)

Moulton is a Marblehead native who recently moved to Salem and boasts degrees from Harvard and an impressive military record. He had to be encouraged by the challenge that Republican Richard Tisei mounted against Tierney in 2012. The former state representative and lieutenant governor candidate from Wakefield won 47.1 percent of the vote to Tierney’s 48.3 percent.

For now, Moulton says his main issue will be the ineffectiveness of a Congress that, as a body, is held in low regard by the great majority of Americans. But it will be interesting to see whether he can resist rehashing details of the scandal involving Tierney’s fugitive brother-in-law, who runs an offshore gambling enterprise. (Fortunately for the incumbent, the new movie “Runner, Runner,” which stars Ben Affleck as the shady operator of a Caribbean-based gaming company, comes out this Sept. 27 — a full year before the primary, and any comparisons between this character and Patrice Tierney’s brother, Robert Eremian, should be long forgotten by then.)

It will also be interesting to see whether Moulton has the field to himself in challenging Tierney for the Democratic nomination. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll would be considered a formidable challenger but reportedly has her eye on running statewide in 2014; while state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, is said to be considering a run for district attorney. Veteran state Rep. Steve Walsh has long coveted the 6th District seat in Congress, but family responsibilities and opportunities elsewhere apparently convinced him not to take on a vulnerable Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy this year, and his future political plans remain unknown.

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Having decided against running for state senator last year and mayor this year, Beverly City Council President Paul Guanci will kick off his campaign for re-election on Sept. 8 at the Italian Community Center.

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Indicative of the success downtown Salem is experiencing these days is the fact that yet another developer is pondering the construction of a hotel in the area.

The City Council is scheduled to vote next Thursday on developer RCG’s plans for building a 100-room hotel, apartments, retail stores and offices on a 1-acre site at the corner of Washington and Dodge streets. The area already has a first-class lodging establishment in the historic Hawthorne Hotel, and the Rockett family has plans to expand its waterfront hotel at Pickering Wharf.

Contrast that with what is happening in downtown Trenton, N.J. Despite this being the capital of the Garden State, the Marriott chain recently severed its ties with the sole hotel within walking distance of the statehouse. Part of an effort to revive the area, the relatively new, 200-room hotel (which this reporter visited a few weeks ago), couldn’t make it, despite vast infusions of money by the state and city.

The problem: State workers flee the city as soon as it gets dark, and the nearby business district is lifeless. It’s too bad, because Trenton has much to recommend it in terms of history (it was the site of several major battles of the Revolutionary War) and its location on the banks of the Delaware River.

Salem must be doing something right.

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Nelson Benton covered North Shore politics for 40 years before retiring last year from The Salem News.