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John Tierney in Tough Spot as Election Day Looms

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rep. John Tierney greets James Rogers, Lucy Wonson and her son, Guy, at Gula-Gula Cafe in Salem, Mass., last week. The eight-term Democratic lawmaker is now considered the underdog in his re-election fight.

After his campaign’s reported efforts to limit questions in debates from touching on his family’s legal issues, the Boston Herald led with a huge headline: “ALL BETS ARE OFF.” The subheadline read: “Tierney’s debate demand: No questions on family’s gambling woes.”

On Tuesday, the Boston Globe endorsed Tisei. “Neither his brother-in-law’s involvement in an offshore gambling operation nor the fact that his wife received significant payments for handling his brother-in-law’s money should, by itself, disqualify Tierney from further service,” the Globe editorial board wrote. “Yet his insistence that he knew nothing about the matter strains credulity.”

Although Tierney has raised a reasonable amount of money over the past year, he’s garnered other nonoptimal press about his fundraising. In each of the past four quarters, Tisei has outraised him.

National Republicans have lent support to Tisei and national Democrats to Tierney, but the levels have been different.

In August, the YG Action Fund, a Republican super PAC, launched a scathing ad against Tierney on Boston broadcast television. The ad asked, “What’s the truth about John Tierney?” before outlining his family’s legal troubles.

Neither the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee nor the Democratic-affiliated House Majority PAC responded directly to those ads on broadcast TV at the time.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent more than $1.5 million against Tierney, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The DCCC, as of Wednesday, had spent only $183,000 against Tisei. (A Democrat tracking ad buys in the district said the final DCCC number would be more than $300,000.)

That disparity lends itself to the narrative that Tierney is done. And narratives like that can sometimes become self-
fulfilling.

Even among Tierney supporters, it’s clear the Congressman is under duress.

“You’ve got my vote,” said a woman behind the counter at a Salem jewelry store. “Don’t worry.”

“Hang in there,” a nearby barber told him.

Tisei, for his part, emphasized Tierney’s partisanship more than his family’s legal issues.

Sitting in a hold room before a rally with Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and John McCain (Ariz.) on Saturday, Tisei made it clear he was running not just against Tierney, but also against Washington, D.C.

“I think people are tired of both Democrat and Republican fighting all the time,” he said. “They want people who are problem-solvers.”

Brown, who served with Tisei in the state Senate, spoke briefly about the race earlier.

“Yeah, well,” he said matter-of-factly, “Richard’s going to win that.”

If there’s a chance he doesn’t, it would be because of the robust Democratic turnout operation in the district and across the state. But Tisei has also been working on his ground game and should be boosted by Brown’s re-election effort. The Senator is expected to comfortably carry the 6th district.

Back in Beverly on Saturday, Tierney got an incredibly positive response from a packed church. In interviews, Democrats in the crowd dismissed the nasty ads against him and noted all the ways in which he has helped the district.

Tierney warmed up the crowd for Warren.

“As Elizabeth will join me in saying, it’s not about our families, it’s not about their families, it’s about your families!” Tierney said to big applause.

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