^ from the top : John Tierney (D-incumbent) and Rich Tisei (R-challenger); Seth Moulton (D-challenger)

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What to make of the puzzling battle hotting up in our State’s 6th Congressional District ? It’s not a simple matter. I live in the District, have been involved with its Congressional elections since 2010, know and like both the Republican nominee, Rich Tisei, and the Democratic incumbent, John Tierney; I haven’t yet met Tierney’s Democratic Primary challenger, Seth Moulton of Marblehead, but am impressed by what i have seen of him on social media and in the press. Still, impressed doesn’t mean convinced. Not convinced by Moulton and also not by Tierney or Tisei.

Let me tell you why. I speak here as a voter in the District as well as a journo :

First, Rich Tisei, the Republican challenger. A few days ago I received an e-mail from his campaign in which he spoke of economic growth. Now, let’s be clear ; Tisei is a hero of civil rights; I was hopeful to find from him some equally bold proposals for economic advance. If not bold, then at least common sense. But what did I read ? That economic growth requires tax breaks for corporations. Why ? Because, said civil rights hero Tisei, they need these incentives in order to start hiring again and to spur their own growth.

Really ?

Didn’t I read the same thing from Mit6t Romney all during the 2012 election ? It made no sense then and doesn’t now.

Word : businesses don’t hire people because they get tax breaks. They hire because consumer demand for their products or services increases. Put more money in consumers’ wallets, they will spend more, and businesses ill hire more people.

This isn’t rocket science, but Tisei doesn’t seem to get it. At a Salem Republican city Committee meeting in 2012, at which tisei — then a Congress candidate for the first run — spoke, he talked about a mortgage broker friend of his being out of work.

I challenged him. said i : “I’m sorry about your mortgage broker friend, but how about 1,000 people with mortgages they can’t pay and which the banks won’t modify ? Rich,” said I,” this is math. Your mortgage broker has one vote. Mortgage borrowers out there have 1,000 votes. what are you going to do about the 1,000 ?”

He had no answer. He still has no answer.

2.Tisei’s big fail on economic issues puts the spotlight on his opponent, incumbemt ten term Congressman john Tierney. It should be an easy decision for me — for you — to vote Tierney, who does get it on economic issues and who almost always promotes the economic reforms — including a much higher living wage — that ordinary people need and which therefore grow the economy. So why not Tierney ?

Why not, is because of the kinds of campaigns that Tierney has run since the worm started turning on him. we all know what that worm was ; he married into a family with a criminal history. His wife Pat is a great gal; I like her a lot. (I also like John.) but John clearly knew more of the Aramian brothers’ affairs than he has admitted, and if only to be a good husband to Pat, he clearly allowed her to accept large sums of money from the trust set up under Federal Court order to oversee the Aramians’ funds. I think that John also did promote legislation that aided his brothers-in-law, and he found himself ensnared and then turned on by his in-laws.

None of the above is in any way criminal. John Tierney is an upstanding citizen. but when you find yourself married into a family with criminals in it, and you are a powerful Congressman, you get trapped. Our district needs a Congressman whose time and energy are not commandeered by criminal in-laws wanting favors and threatening consequences if they don’t get them.

Criminals suck the soul out of those close to them; they are users, users of everything that has social calories. It will take John Tierney much energy to get his criminal in-laws out of his life, much less out of his wife’s. Better he do that as a private citizen and not as our Congressman.

3.So that brings us to Tierney’s most significant Primary challenger, Seth Moulton. (There are two others.) Moulton has raised tons of money — outraised Tierrney each of the last three quarters — and has a fine local resume : US marine, grew up in Salem, raised in Marblehead, graduated from Phillips Andover (disclosure : my alma mater too) and Harvard College.

As for issues, on gun control alone — such a crucial matter — Moulton speaks eloquently for broad-based reform of a situation long since out of control and epidemic. says his website :

“The reality is each year thousands of people are killed in gun-related crimes. We need common sense gun reform, starting with the implementation of universal background checks. It’s too easy for powerful guns to get in the hands of the wrong people. We need to put a stop to that by requiring all gun sellers – whether federally licensed or at a gun show – to run a background check before completing a sale. In addition, we must crack down on gun traffickers with tougher penalties for straw purchasers, ban high-capacity magazines, and keep guns away from domestic abusers and out of schools, churches, bars and restaurants.

I applaud the efforts of Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) for coming together in a bipartisan effort to put forth stronger background checks. While the measure ultimately failed, Senator Manchin plans to revive the amendment in the Senate, and I will advocate for and propose similar legislation in the House.”

This is language you won’t hear from Tierney, for whom bi-partisanship doesn’t exist (and who has called Rich Tisei a Tea Party candidate — a charge so ridiculous it calls in question Tierney’s political sanity. You also won’t likely hear the gun part of it from Tisei, who would like to not mention gun issues at all, given that the national GOP is fully in thrall to this organization of threateners.

But Tisei does talk bipartisanship and has a proven record of it from 22 years serving as Malden-Melrose’s State Senator, as eat that he commanded so strongly that usually he ran unopposed. Tisei’s forward stand on civil rights assures that he will stand well outside the circle of oppose-everything anals who comprise the House GOP. Tisei will, in fact, have no choice bit to work with the House’s Democratic members — though that will require him to lose his “job creator” horse effluent.

Moulton has no such record. If it’s bipartisanship that our District wants, Tisei is the surer choice by far. Also troubling is that Moulton has called Tisei “too extreme” for the District. that sounds a whole lot like John Tierney calling Rich Tisei a tea party candidate. It is demagoguery and unworthy of my vote.

So there you have it. None of the three major candidates seeking the support of our 6th District’s 200,000-plus voters fits the bill very well. Yet one must choose. Right now, my choice, despite serious reservations on economic policy, is Rich Tisei.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ 4 visions 4 : from Left : Evandro C. Carvalho; Karen Charles-Peterson; Jennifer Johnson; Barry Lawton. (a fifth candidate, Roy Owens, did not participate in the Forum)

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Yesterday afternoon voters of the 5th District had this campaign’s only opportunity to see, on one platform answering questions, four of the five candidates who seek to represent them. About 100 of the District’s residents showed up. There was plenty of enthusiasm among them — which was a good thing, because every one of the four needs to up his or her speaking craft.

That’s OK; I don’t expect candidates for State Representative, in a special election hurriedly called after the February 5th expulsion of Carlos Henriquez following his domestic violence conviction, to be silver tongued orators or think tank masters. This was a neighborhood event, and its candidates sounded like neighbors.

Moderated diligently by Boston Neighborhood News’s Chris Lovett, all four candidates — Evandro C. Carvalho, Karen Charles-Peterson, Jennifer Johnson, and Barry Lawton — managed to give Forum attendees a pretty fair impression of who they are, why they are running, and what they are likely to work on as the District’s State House representative. Still, all had some difficulty focusing on State legislation matters rather than concerns more appropriate for a City Councillor.

This was true even of Barry Lawton, who in his opening remarks said “i am the only candidate on this stage who has written legislation” — which he likely did as a staffer to former State Representative Royal Bolling, Jr. — but then proceeded not to mention even one piece of legislation that he would sponsor if elected. Lawton did have plenty to say, however, about vacant city lots, jobs, and his long experience as an activist.

Evandro C. Carvalho did make at least one potential legislative point — to include expansion of vocational education in state school reform bills — but, curiously, given his history as a Suffolk County prosecutor of gun crimes, failed to mention the very detailed gun control legislation now before the legislature’s Public safety committee.

In fairness to Carvalho, neither did any of the other three candidates mention, much less discuss, this legislation. it was a curious omission considering the urgency, in neighborhoods of the 5th District, of curbing gun violence.

Karen Charles-Peterson at first spoke in the quiet voiced generalities that anyone who heard her chief political backer, Charlotte Golar-Richie, during lat year’s mayor election is quite familiar with. But half way through the Forum she suddenly became a different Peterson. She had sat; now she stood up. as Barry Lawton spoke loudly, with hand gestures like a preacher, so now did  Charles-Peterson. She ended strongly, announcing that “I will take all 40,000 residents of this District with me to the State House” and “I will give everyone my personal cell phone number, call me any time.” Charles-Peterson also discussed aid for the small businesses that string the length of Bowdoin and Hancock Streets, in the center of the District. that said, neither she nor any of the four, except Jennifer Johnson, uttered the place name “Uphams Corner” — despite its being the major crossroads of the District.

And now I come to Jennifer Johnson. Ostensibly she’s an unlikely candidate ; Caucasian in a District largely of color and an authentic issues voice among candidates unclear about which issues matter, and in what way, to a legislator. Johnson’s far from  being the polished, focused speaker she will need to be if she’s to make issues heard and understood; but she spoke in some detail about the formal, even bureaucratic, task that small businesses face as they seek loans; about how and why business development matters to a District among the lowest income of all; about how to frame affordable housing agreements with developers; about raising the minimum wage (strangely, this initiative, so vital to the District, was hardly mentioned by the other three candidates)and, most fascinating of all, about technology : connecting technology enterprises to the District and to schools, and the District to technology jobs.

Johnson could easily have delivered her remarks to the chamber of commerce or a Business round table. Odd it felt to hear a 5th District candidate talking enterprise and cutting edge innovation. But why not ? She called herself a  “Kennedy liberal,” a phrase as attuned to business success as to social justice. Would it be too much a reach to say that the two reinforce each other ? (It was shrewd of Johnson to talk so much about business. Business development was John Barros’s signature, and by talking it, Johnson sought to take up the banner of a man who was given 2,071 votes — first place — from the District in last year’s mayor race.)

There was plenty of applause for Johnson, and for Charles-Peterson; but the day’s noise prize was won by Carvalho, who, with John Barros unavailable, has picked up the banner of Boston’s Cape Verdean community. It dominates the 5th District, and if Carvalho spoke softly, seemed to be thinking out loud, and often rambled, he could afford to do so; his vote is energized and likely will be the largest bloc on the April 1st Primary day. Alone of the four, his vision seems to be : who i am. Or to phrase it another way, If I win, all Cape Verdeans win.

At the Forum, it worked. And though I think that the District’s Cape Verdeans could as well as any other District residents use the technology advocacy that Johnson would surely put in play, getting to that may well take much more time than the one week that remains for voters to consider who best can be their political clout — to the City or at the State House. Nor will there be another Forum to help them. Yesterday was it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere