6TH CONGRESS DISTRICT : EQUALITY FORUM FRAMES THE ISSUE

1 John Tierhey

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^ top : Congressman John Tierney. bottom : challenger Rich Tisei

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Who could have predicted, twenty years ago, that a time would come when candidates running for Congress would all appear — and be glad of it — at an issues Forum hosted by gay activists ? So it was, last night, that at the Hawthorne Hotel’s main ballroom in Salem, all five candidates seeking to represent the 6th Massachusetts District spoke their speeches and answered questions posed by Go Out Loud’s Chris Sicuranza.

Present at the table were all four Democratic primary candidates : (1) Marisa deFranco, a feisty, street-talking attorney who has gained a large reputation as an immigration lawyer and also represents many LGBT clients (2) John Devine, whom I had never met or heard of until last night and who spoke much too quietly to be heard (3) Seth Moulton, of Marblehead, the night’s most eloquent speaker by far but who, when faced with giving specific answers to Sicuranza’s questions, faded to gray; and (4) John Tierney, the nine-term Congressman, who needs no introduction and who had a bully-f0rce cheeri9\ng section on hand to applaud his succinct, authoritative remarks.

Equally present was the Republican challenger, Rich Tisei, whose 24 year career in the state legislature and Senate saw him, among other work, participating in our state’s pioneering legislation on gay and transgender rights.

Tisei had a huge advantage for a gay activist Forum: he is openly gay and married to a man who sat in the front row and of whom, as he told the full room of people, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without his love and support.”

Questions were asked of all five candidates, concerning specific gay rights legislation they would support, issues of housing and job discrimination, and the problem of homeless gay youth — homeless often because their families have rejected them. These questions were answered more or less effectively : the more effective answers came, not surprisingly, from Tierney and Tisei. Still, none of these questions had any effect on the central issue raised at the Forum by these two leading candidates :

Argued Tierney : “Yes this Congress did nothing. You want a Congress that does something ? change the majority. Don’t send Rich Tisei to Congress, because one man cannot change the GOP caucus.”

Tisei’s response : “Yes, send me to Congress because my being in the House GOP caucus changes it right there. Also my record of bipartisanship.”

Both arguments make sense. T^ierney is right : Congress will do nothing useful as long as the current GOP remains in the majority. Tisei is equally right ; putting an openly gay Congressman into the house GOP caucus DOES change the caucus irrevocably. (Note : Tisei won’t be as alone as Tierney thinks. openly gay Carl DeMaio, of San Diego, California, is sure to be elected. He leads the polls in his Congress district by ten points.)

So, which man’s argument do I choose ? It’s a terribly difficult choice. John Tierney has been an excellent Congressman, right on all the issues, tireless in attending our District,; and the troubles faced by his wife on account of her rather criminal brothers should not — must not — be held against him. On the other hand, changing the House GOP caucus seems to me a vital national mission. Our nation cannot rise to the occasion if it has one progressive political party and another that wants to regress. We need two progressive parties, differing on priorities and methods but not on the ultimate goal of a more just, inclusive, welcoming society.
Re-electing John Tierney will NOT change the majority. The GOP now controls the House by a majority of about 50. It is not likely to be ousted, now or in the forseeable future. Thus Tisei has the better practical argument : change the house GOP caucus. It’s also the more vital national mission. For the entire nation’s sake, the GOP must change — must change a lot. Only Republicans can change it.

The election of Richard Tisei is a strong start. I am glad that both he and Tierney framed the election in these terms.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

6th CONGRESS DISTRCT : THREE CANDIDATES, ALL FLAWED

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^ 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

MAGOV14 : CHARLIE BAKER — THE 30 % MAN

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^ a scene he’ll have to repeat about 500,000 times : Charlie Baker wins a voter

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Both new polls of the Massachusetts Governor race make clear that Charlie Baker has a 30 percent chance of winning. Give or take, about 30 percent of Massachusetts voters support him no matter who his November opponent will be.

It’s a simple calculation. 30 percent support means 30 percent chance of winning, just aa 60 percent support means 60 percent chance of winning.

I say this even though about 33 percent of our state’s voters poll “undecided.” If Baker is to win, he will need to carry the undecided voters about two to one. Very rarely does a block of voters that large — in Massachusetts, 33 percent equals about 1,000,000 voters — pick any candidate by two to one.

Yesterday’s U Mass Poll gave us a more detailed look at the governor race than did Western Mass University’s poll last week. Let’s look both polls’ numbers now :

U Mass Poll                       Western Mass U Poll

Baker 34                             Baker 25
Coakley 45 ( und 21)     Coakley 54 (und 21)

Baker 29                              Baker 29
Grossman 35 ( und 36 ) Grossman 38 ( und 33 )

Baker 32
Kayyem 32 ( und 36 )

Baker polled much better in the U Mass Poll against Coakley, no better at all against Grossman. But this poll allows us a peek at something more ominous : how Baker polls against Juliette Kayyem. She draws a mere 3 % of the Democratic Primary vote — according to the poll — and so is, basically, a “generic Democratic vote.” Against a “generic Democrat,” therefore, Baker polls dead heat — but no better. This cannot be good news for a man now running his second statewide campaign for governor.

I said, last week in analyzing the Western Mass University poll, that Baker has a very narrow window to victory. The new poll confirms it. Against Coakley, he is down by 11 points with only 21 percent undecided. To beat her he’d have to win the undecideds by 17 to 4; that will not happen. If he wins the undecideds by 12 to 9 — which could happen — he loses to Coakley by 54 to 46, only a two point difference from the result suggested in the western Mass poll.

Against Grossman, U Mass’s poll offers Baker a marginally better chance than did the Western Mass. From that one, I suggested a 52 to 48 Grossman win (and an opportunity, among legislative insiders, for Baker to turn it around). The U Mass poll has a full 36 percent undecided; if Baker wins them 21 to 15 — a result very doable — he and Grossman tie at 50-50. If that happens, the insider action that I suggested in my previous column would almost certainly give Baker the corner office.

I say “would almost” rather than ‘will” because there’s other factors at work that the U Mass Poll highlights. You will note the “word cloud” statistic ? OK, what words do come to mind — in descending order of frequency — when you think of Baker ? Of Coakley ? Of Grossman ?

For Coakley : 1st, smart; 2nd, liberal; 3rd, honest; 4th, good’; 5th, strong. Democrat / that comes 6th.

For Grossman ; 1st, unknown; 2nd, unsure; 3rd, know; 4th, none.

For Baker : 1st, Republican; 2nd, unknown; 3rd, conservative; Businessman ? Hardly appears at all. Good ? Only a little better. Experienced ? way down the list.

These are hardly good associations for Baker. To be known chiefly as a Republican is, in Massachusetts, to have some ‘splainin’ to do. Conservative, even more ‘splainin’. Baker needs badly to rebrand himself, and he has very little time to do it. And no chance at all to beat Coakley to the words that generate a vote : smart, good, honest, strong — not to mention Democrat.

Baker’s associations do look more vote-productive than Grossman’s. How can an elected statewide office holder, the State Treasurer, poll unknown, unsure, none ? Grossman has spent tons of money to become known, so it seems, only by Democratic activists. With about seven months remaining in the campaign he is not on most voters’ radar. And yet — and yet ! — against the much better known — but “Republican, conservative” — Baker, he polls 6 to 9 points ahead.

The word cloud tells me that my prognosis for Baker in a contest against Grossman has been far too optimistic . If “unknown, unsure” Grossman beats Baker by 6 to 9 points, what will Grossman poll once he does become better known ?

Baker has to be sweating it. But this is what it’s like when you are a “conservative, Republican” drawing about 30 percent in Massachusetts. You have a 30 percent chance to win.

When it’s like that, and you’re in it, you gamble. You throw the dice as far ahead of you as you can.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : April 18, 2014 at 10 AM — turnout might help Baker a little,. In his home Congressional District, the 6th, there is an expensive, very close contest underway between incumbent Democrat John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei. This is a re-match for the two men; both are well known. Turnout will almost certainly tally higher than otherwise, by maybe 20,000 votes; and as Baker lives in Swampscott — the heart of the contest — he can only benefit. — MF

6TH CONGRESS DISTRICT : ISSUES, ATTACKS, AND AVOIDANCE

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^ John Tierney / Rich Tisei : will this be another campaign of generic GOP (Tisei) versus dumb attacks (John Tierney) ?

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The fight for who will be my Congressman next term has already begun. It would be nice if the candidates chose to voice issues that matter to a large number of actual people, but that’s not how campaigns for Congress usually play out these days. The issues that get voiced are those that big-money PACs and single issue pressure groups want voiced. Most of us do not belong — thank goodness — to single issue advocacy groups. Lives are not lived in a single isssue thimble. Lives face many issues, many that matter quite a lot. It’s hard to carve one issue without mutilating oneself, but many Congress candidates prefer to mutilate than to take up a whole person. As for big-money PACs, they have zero interest in you in me. Politics for them is all about them. Theirs is a Me, Myself, and I world.

That’s the context in which I, as a voter in the 6th Congressional District in Massachusetts, am asked now to vote whether John Tierney should be re-elected or if one of three challengers should re-place him. As it happens, I’m no ordinary voter; I’m also a journalist covering politics as my beat. I get to know a lot more about a lot of politicians than most voters have time to find out. Still, I’m not free of my own agendas, stuff that matters to me and which i think matters quite a bit to most of you. So let’s start with the agendas — the issues that I think really matter right now :

1. the income gap is growing, the opportunity gap expanding. It hurts the economy, and it hurts many of our fellow citizens living in the economy. If our Federal politics has any mission, it is to use Federal powers to abet opportunity and promote the income of everyone. Doesn’t the Constitution say, in its Preamble, that it aims to promote the general welfare ? An economy is everyone of us. If many of us can’t participate, the economy suffers just as much as the people who can’t participate.

2. student debt has become a huge impediment to economic growth. Yes we want to educate young people; that’s how they get the jobs of tomorrow; but education costs so much that only the wealthy can graduate free of debt. Student debt repayment commands a large part of young workers’ take home income. Student debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Deferring payments only increases the interest accruing. We are growing an entire generation of young workers indentured to student debt. If they’re lucky, they can pay it off by the time they reach age 40. If they aren’t lucky, they can never repay it. Indentured service was, in our nation’s early days, a way forward for a growing nation, yet it was only legally different from slavery, because indentured people in the early 1800s were shackled financially to individuals. Today, student indebted people are shackled to student lender corporations. Less personal, perhaps, definitely less confining, but no less burdensome.

3. Many states are enacting laws to suppress or discourage voting rather than easing access and encouraging. Many states are also trying to enact laws so restricting of women’s access to abortion and contraception that in effect they are taking access away. The people being hurt by such laws are those with very little access to income and for whom increased stress means even less likelihood of stable employment.

4. Some states are enacting laws taking away public workers’ rights to organize unions. Some states refuse to grant undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses, in-state tuition fees for their children, or access to health care. Thereby the people targeted by these laws become less able to participate in the economy.

You will notice that all four of the situations that I think most significant in the nation today involve the economy, either directly or by consequence. We say we want to grow the economy, but how can we grow it best if we make it harder for many people to participate in the economy to their best potential ?

That said, how do the four candidates seeking to be my next Congressman respond ?

1. John Tierney just sent out a district wide mailing in which five (5) of his top six initiatives address the problem of student debt. (The sixth initiative calls for all kids to have access to early childhood education.)

2. Rich Tisei, who will be the GOP nominee and who came within 1100 votes of beating Tierney in 2012, sent out a mailing whose big point was that Massachusetts’s universal health care law should prevail over the ACA. His other point was that taxes on business should be lowered.

3. Seth Moulton, who is challenging John Tierney in the Democratic primary, calls upon Tierney to reinstate the veterans retirement pay cut that he voted for as part of the $ 1.1 trillion budget deal recently enacted in Congress. A bill to do exactly that is now making its way through Congress. He also calls the mild-mannered, pro-choice, pro marriage equality Tisei “too extreme for the families of this district.”

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^ Seth Moulton :  not much to say so far that merits attention

4. Marisa DeFranco, who is also challenging Tierney in the Primary, has this to say : “It is time for real talk about solutions and substance, not more of the same empty cliches. You are the real heroes and the real people who make a difference, and you deserve someone who knows you and will fight for the people of the Sixth District.”

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^ “real talk” redefined : Marisa DeFranco

I would hope that the above paragraphs speak for themselves.

Tierney has addressed one major issue that really matters. The other folks address less significant issues, issues given to them by PACs, a generalized negativity, or no issues at all. Early advantage, then, goes all to Tierney.

Advantage, too, in facing not one but two primary challengers, one (Moulton) unknown, the other (DeFranco) barely known.

But early advantages, terrific for the Primary, mean not much in the final election. Tisei is well known and liked, clearly perceived, an unique figure even in Massachusetts’s reasonably useful GOP. Tierney has badly injured his case against Tisei by allowing a spokesman to say that Tisei is “simply another vote for John Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans.”

The remark insults the intelligence of our district’s voters. Does John Tierney really think we’re that dumb, that blind, that dismissive of an opponent who has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment ? Tierney tried this attack last time, and it almost cost him his seat. (He would clearly have lost had not an independent candidate taken a full 5 % of the final vote). This time it’s a joke stale as well as bad.

But it won’t seem so much a joke if, darn soon, Tisei doesn’t address the issue overriding all : gaps in income and opportunity, inequality on the increase, and massive student debt. Many solutions are now on offer in Congress, in particular raising the minimum wage, increasing the earned income credit, or a compromise combination of the two. Last time, Tisei ran a generic GOP campaign with no local flair and not even a soupcon of originality. Even when prodded — by me at a couple of Town halls — he stuck to the same old same old.

Tisei needs to THINK. To speak to our District, not the GOP playbook. Yes it will cost him some PAC money : so what ? It’s time for PAC money to go take a hike anyway; it’s done nothing but distort and damage the nation’s governance. Tisei is well advised to run his own campaign, on his own turf — lose the same old — and to make income inequality issues his top mantra. if he does not do that, he’ll give Tierney’s stale bad joke a second life.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere