By Colin Quinn
Statehouse News Service
BOSTON -- As U.S Rep. John Tierney declared victory in the 6th Essex Congressional District, questions about whether Republican Richard Tisei will challenge some votes and call for a recount remained unanswered Wednesday morning.
Tisei has not conceded the race but a Tierney campaign aide said Wednesday that Tisei lost by about 5,000 votes and that Tierney felt comfortable declaring himself the winner at about 1 a.m. Tisei aides said late Tuesday night that they’d be available in the morning but they did not respond to inquiries.
Tierney’s apparent victory surprised some who expected Tisei to beat the Salem Democrat plagued this election cycle by a family gambling scandal that dominated the campaign. But Tierney managed to narrowly defeat Tisei in the contentious battle, pulling in 48 percent of the vote to Tisei’s 47 percent. A third candidate, Libertarian Daniel Fishman, was a factor in the race, attracting more than 16,600 votes.
Tierney, likely buoyed by voters turning out to support Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama, won in the district’s largest communities such as Lynn, Beverly, Peabody and Gloucester.
As results trickled in after midnight, Tisei campaign manager Paul Moore said the race was too close to concede defeat, and suggested they planned to look at voting in Lynn, where they said they heard several reports of voter “irregularities.” Moore alleged voter intimidation, saying there were unidentified people standing outside of polling places telling voters “if they wanted to continue to get their welfare checks,” they should vote a certain way. Moore also alleged a lack of communication with Lynn town officials.
A spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin said Wednesday that Tisei has not filed a complaint.
“What they are complaining about happened outside the polling place. If they had a problem with it they would take it up with police,” said Brian McNiff, a Galvin spokesman. “There were no complaints made yesterday about anything regarding what they are alleging out in Lynn.”
Officials from the Lynn Police Department could not be reached for comment.
Tisei’s campaign staff could not be reached for immediate comment Wednesday morning.
John Walsh, state Democratic Party chairman, said he was doubtful Tisei would decide to call for a recount. In the end, the race was not close enough, he said. Tisei lost by more than 3,600 votes, according to preliminary numbers.
“All the votes are in. Nobody is recounting 3 or 4,000 votes,” Walsh said. “Last night it was an entirely different circumstance.”
Tierney, a Democrat from Salem, managed to hold on to the seat he has held for 16 years despite being dogged about how much he knew about his brother-in-laws’ illegal gambling operation. Last year, Tierney’s wife Patrice served one month in federal prison after admitting to “willful blindness” in helping her brother, now a fugitive, file false tax returns disguising his gambling income.
While several polls showed him down in the last few months, Tierney repeatedly expressed confidence he would win reelection. Twenty-three out of 24 newspapers in the North Shore district endorsed Tisei, including the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.
In his victory speech at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Tierney acknowledged it was a hard-fought win and accused Tisei of running a nasty campaign.
“It was ugly. It was nasty,” Tierney said. “It was expensive for them – more than $5 million spreading misinformation — but we had people who stayed with it all the way and never gave up hope, never gave up faith and were our friends and supporters. We thank them for the work that they did.”
A large crowd of Tisei supporters huddled in at the Marriott in Peabody watching election results trickle in until late Tuesday. Tisei spoke to the crowd once, shortly after 11 p.m. saying he was not appearing to concede. “I wanted to come down and just say thank you to all the people who are here,” Tisei said.
Republican Super PACs spent millions of dollars attacking Tierney in print and television ads questioning what he knew about his brother-in-law’s alleged illegal offshore gambling business. Tierney has insisted he knew nothing about the business he thought was legal. Tierney has not been charged or connected in any way to the gambling operation.
A Lynnfield native, Tisei was first elected to the Massachusetts House at 22 years old and went on to serve in the Senate, where he was minority leader. Two years ago ran for lieutenant governor when Charlie Baker ran as the Republican candidate against Gov. Deval Patrick. He left the State House after he and Baker lost the race, and returned to his real estate business, Northrup Associates.
Baker, who attended the Tisei event for a few minutes late in the night, said he was there to support his friend, and earlier in the evening he was at Sen. Scott Brown’s election night headquarters. Asked about his own political future, Baker said he was “not considering anything,” adding “tonight is about 2012.”
During the race, Democrats painted Tisei as a right-wing Republican aligned with the Tea Party, hoping to make the race about the national GOP agenda. Tisei, who is openly gay, favors gay marriage and is pro-abortion rights.
The two candidates differed on how to jumpstart the economy, with Tierney in favor of investing more in infrastructure and social service programs, while raising taxes on the wealthiest, and Tisei wanted to reduce business regulations and preserve tax cuts, including for the wealthy.
The 6th Essex District runs along the North Shore from Lynn to the New Hampshire border, stretching southwest to Bedford. Redistricting this year added Tewksbury, Billerica and a part of Andover. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, but un-enrolled voters make up the largest percentage. The district voted for Sen. Scott Brown in 2010.