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Tierney Is Lone Vulnerable in Massachusetts

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. John Tierney is the only potentially vulnerable Massachusetts Democrat in this election cycle because of the more conservative bent of voters in his district, legal troubles in his family and a very credible GOP challenger.

This is the lone Massachusetts seat that’s likely to be truly in play. The district, in the northeastern part of the commonwealth, will be competitive thanks to the more conservative bent of voters, the incumbent’s family’s legal troubles and a very credible GOP challenger.

Tierney’s wife, Patrice, last year pleaded guilty to federal tax charges after helping her brother’s illegal gambling ring. But the problems aren’t going away. She recently testified at the trial for another of her brothers. Spousal privilege was invoked, and she was able to avoid discussing whether she asked the Congressman, a lawyer, if what she was doing was legal, according to local news reports. Patrice Tierney admitted that she and her husband twice visited her brother’s headquarters on Antigua, most recently in 2009, but said she didn’t know it was the heart of an illegal gambling operation, according to the local reports.

The Congressman has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, but the headlines and the innuendo associated with Tierney’s wife’s case and her testimony hurt his brand and his chances for re-election, Bay State strategists tell Roll Call. National Democrats insisted the allegations have already been vetted by voters: Patrice Tierney’s guilty plea came the month before the 2010 elections and Tierney beat 2010 GOP nominee attorney Bill Hudak by a comfortable margin. But Tierney is likely to face a stronger challenger this cycle. Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor last year, served in the state Legislature representing a part of the 6th district for a quarter of a century. Tisei, 49, is openly gay and is seen as an experienced and disciplined politician with a proven ability to raise money. But before he can take on Tierney, he’ll have to best Hudak in a primary. Tisei should have a substantial edge in that race.

Redistricting didn’t help Tierney’s cause, with the new lines leaving the district intact and adding the towns of Tewksbury, Billerica and a part of Andover. All three municipalities voted for now-Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the upset 2010 special election. In the 2008 presidential election, Tewksbury went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), while Billerica and Andover voted for Obama. Overall, the new 6th is not politically very different than the current 6th. The district’s Democratic performance — a measure of how Democrats did on the ballot in relevant recent historical races — fell about 1 point, to 50.9 percent.

Tierney has incumbency on his side, had $441,000 in cash on hand at the end of September and has a strong team of consultants, including Jefrey Pollock for polling and Ann Liston for media. National Democrats are quick to emphasize that Tisei must first get through a primary fight and stress that he has years of votes in the Legislature, which might weigh him down. But if there’s a race to watch in the bluest of blue states, this is it.

 7th District
Incumbent: Mike Capuano (D)
7th term (98 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

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