As he has for months, Tierney continued to try to link Tisei with the right wing of the Republican party.
“In order not to talk about that issue, you went out and attacked my wife and her family as a way to get to me,” Tierney said. “If the issues were discussed, people would know you stood with the extremist Republican party.”
Tisei’s rebuke was short and to the point.
“What you just heard from Congressman Tierney is exactly what the problem in this country is,” Tisei said, hitting on a well-trodden campaign message that he would be a bipartisan and independent voice, in contrast to Tierney. “He is the most partisan Democrat in the entire country.”
Tierney, a Salem Democrat seeking a ninth term in Congress, and Tisei, a Wakefield Republican who served 26 years in the Statehouse, are locked in a dead heat in one of the closest and closely watched House campaigns in the country.
The debate, sponsored by The Salem News and The Jewish Journal, also touched on jobs, the economy, U.S. relations with Israel, health care and more.
Both Tierney and Tisei agreed that Israel has a right to protect itself, but neither took a firm stance on whether the United States should go to war with Iran to keep that country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
On the economy, Tisei blamed instability in Washington for the slow recovery, asserting that small businesses are afraid to hire because of uncertainty about what tax rates or new regulations are coming down the pike. He also skewered Tierney on a 2.3 percent medical device tax, which the congressman voted for as part of the Affordable Care Act, claiming it has led to North Shore companies considering “a hiring freeze and laying off people.”
Tierney blasted House Republicans for not passing President Barack Obama’s jobs act, which he said would have put firefighters, teachers and others back to work, and for not considering the Democrat proposals to increase funding for infrastructure projects that would boost private sector employment.