Democratic Congressman John Tierney brought sharpened teeth to debate with Republican opponent Richard Tisei on NECN Thursday, and he wasted no time digging in.
Just one day after the 6th District congressional candidates gathered in North Andover for a debate, the two appeared on "The Broadside" with Jim Braude and left most of the pleasantries at the door.
Tierney faces an intense battle for reelection, with many polls showing Tisei either ahead of him or surging upward, and the eight-term congressman worked to aggressively take his opponent down a few notches Thursday -- attacking his decades-long state legislator record and calling him "shameless."
Early on, the focus was Tierney's wife Patrice and her family's legal issues surrounding an illegal offshore gambling operation run by Patrice Tierney's brother Robert Eremian. Tisei hammered Tierney on Tierney's claims of not knowing about the illegal business and money his wife received from her brother.
Tierney has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the matterm, and Braude interrupted Tisei and asked him if he thinks Tierney broke any laws, and Tisei just said he'd like to see congressional investigations into the matter as well as money Patrice Tierney received from her brother.
And that's when things got ugly.
"Richard you have lied and used insinuation and innuendo on this whole thing and spent $3 million doing it," Tierney said. He added that his wife has paid for her involvement and berated Tisei for using it in the campaign. "She has grandchildren, she has children, she has friends, and your naked political ambition has let you take her and do this to her, because you want a seat that you otherwise couldn't get..."
Noticably frustrated, Tisei attempted to get a few words in, but Tierney kept digging in.
"You can't run on the issues, Richard," Tierney continued. "You don't have a clue about what it takes to be a member of Congress... Richard, you are shameless."
Tierney then doubled down on his recent attacks labeling Tisei a "Tea Party Republican." But Braude stopped him and asked how that's possible if Tisei supports abortion and gay marriage.
"Well look the basis is that he has said the Tea Party's a godsend, he said that he supported the Paul Ryan budget on that basis, he said that he would put the same leadership in there that is in there now," Tierney said, listing far-right portions of the national Republican Party Platform regarding abortion, gay rights, Planned Parenthood and other issues."
Tisei said that he would not vote for the Ryan Budget but that it was "a good start for discussion" to get a plan in place for Medicare and the federal budget.
"The country is in so much trouble right now," Tisei said. "Nobody is talking, nobody's sitting down, nobody's trying to work together."
Regarding party leadership, Tisei noted that he would vote for Speaker John Boehner to remain in that role but would work within the party to push for Massachusetts' priorities, something Tierney said won't happen.
"Richard they will kick you to the curb so fast," Tierney said. He then bashed Tisei's 26 years in the state legislature, calling him "totally irrelevant" there.
Where Have You Been?
As much as they seem to loathe each other, one major point of contention for each of them was actually how little they've see each other.
"Twenty-six years in the state legislature, I've been here 16 years, we've had overlap in our distracts, and all that time, I've never, ever gotten a phone call, I've never gotten an email, I've never had him stop me or come up to me, with any issue of importance and all of a sudden he's the expert on everything congressional and everything in the district," Tierney said.
Tisei replied, "there are parts of the district that have never seen you in 16 years."
In policy-related discussion:
- Tisei said he would not support legislation that kept the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year but let them expire for wealthier Americans. Tierney said he would vote for such a bill.
- Both candidates support assisted suicide and medical marijuana.
- Tisei said he would close loopholes and end deductions, and that he would scale back the mortgage interest tax deduction so that it doesn't include second homes or exceed a certain amount.
- Tisei and Tierney both said they would support deficit reduction that included both spending cuts and tax revenue increases.
- Tierney opposes voter ID laws, Tisei supports them.
- Both candidates would support an assault weapons ban.
What About the Other Guy?
One glaring absence in the debate was that of Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman.
Braude explained during the debate that Fishman was not invited because NECN did not feel there was enough time to include him.
Fishman called NECN out in a statement afterward:
"The debate on NECN tonight between John Tierney and Richard Tisei was excellent theater. Sadly, this is what government has become -- a reflection of our reality TV show society. The debate excluded the calmest candidate because calm is not good television."