Tierney at a recent event in Peabody, Mass. (Shira T. Center/CQ Roll Call)
SALEM, Mass. — Rep. John F. Tierney may have successfully put a family legal scandal far enough behind him to win re-election in 2012, but he’s facing another test. And this time, the Massachusetts Democrat’s challenge is primarily political.
Last cycle, Democrats had all but written off Tierney as a goner, but he managed a 4,300-vote victory — about 1 percent — over the Republicans’ best candidate for the seat in years, the affable former state Sen. Richard Tisei.
This year, Tierney first faces a Sept. 9 primary challenge from Seth Moulton, a Marine with a stellar résumé. Tisei, who is openly gay, is aiming for a rematch and will face the Democratic victor.
CQ Roll Call talked with voters in the 6th District — which includes the swath of suburbs north of Boston, is peppered by coastal towns and curves all the way to the New Hampshire border — over the past two months. The picture that emerged is that voters know and like their congressman, despite his recent ethics issues and his family’s legal foibles.
On a chilly March morning as he courted voters at the Salem Democratic Caucuses, Tierney sported a charcoal blazer and pressed pants and appeared certain the storm was behind him. The coiffed congressman told CQ Roll Call he is confident that this cycle’s battle will be easier than his last. But his supporters, like Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, are more cautious.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a challenging race,” Driscoll said in the three-story Salem High School library reminiscent of 1985’s classic film, “The Breakfast Club.” “We had a lot more turnout last time. We’re talking about an election that had the president and Elizabeth Warren on the ballot. So you had just a lot more grass-roots effort going on, a lot of help in terms of field organization statewide.”