By Jesse Roman
---- — Five local mayors spoke out in unison yesterday to endorse 6th District Congressman John Tierney in his tight re-election campaign against Republican Richard Tisei.
“John Tierney is accessible, he’s attentive and well-versed on the issues,” said Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon, who praised the eight-term Democrat for securing millions in federal funding for the city. “He’s a guy who delivers the goods. We can depend on him. I hope he sticks around for a long time.”
That sentiment was echoed by Mayors Kim Driscoll of Salem, Ted Bettencourt of Peabody, Donna Holaday of Newburyport and Thatcher Kezer of Amesbury in a conference call yesterday with reporters.
“The key word is partnership, and that’s what exists between local, state and federal governments. John Tierney has been a partner for us; he’s always asking, ‘How can we help?’” Kezer said. “You hear the Republican side and they are backing out of that partnership, but at the local level we depend on that partnership.”
In addition to supporting Tierney, the mayors — four Democrats and an independent (Scanlon) — took turns bashing a Republican-backed budget written by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who was tapped last week to be presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate.
Ryan’s budget has been a lightning rod for Democrats, including Tierney, who see the initiatives as nothing short of class warfare. The proposal would largely privatize Medicare, cut Medicaid spending, dismantle 2010’s sweeping health care overhaul and cut a slew of other programs in an effort to reduce the national deficit. It would also cut tax rates across the board.
The five local mayors said that plan would cripple local services and cut education spending and other much-needed funds for infrastructure, social services and municipal improvement projects, all while providing wealthy Americans with greater tax breaks.
“I’m greatly concerned how the Republican budget would affect the city of Peabody,” Bettencourt said.
“I fear that any support for the Ryan budget would be a step backward,” said Driscoll, who added that “the unprecedented cuts” would “present a huge challenge” to Salem.
“I don’t know Richard Tisei well,” she said, “but the initiatives he supports would hurt the community, and that’s what I’m concerned about.”
For months, Tierney has been eager to align Tisei with Ryan’s budget plan, noting that Ryan’s political action committee has donated to Tisei’s campaign. He repeatedly referred to the Republican plan yesterday as the “Tisei/Ryan budget.”
In an interview, Tisei called Tierney’s use of that phrase “pathetic” and likened the congressman to “a little kid in a schoolyard.”
“I have never said I think the Paul Ryan budget is great or that I’d vote for it the minute I get down there (to Washington),” Tisei said. “You won’t find that quote because I’ve never said it anywhere.”
Tisei has called the Ryan plan “a good starting point,” along with the President Barack Obama-appointed Simpson-Bowles Commission plan, but stopped short of endorsing it.
Tisei said he agrees with Ryan that the tax code needs to be simplified, tax rates reduced, and certain loopholes and deductibles eliminated. But he said he does not support Medicaid cuts if it would shift more of the fiscal burden to states.
As for Medicare, Tisei “would look at every single proposal on the table,” including the Ryan plan, because the program “is going to go bankrupt if we do nothing.”
On Ryan’s steep spending cut proposals: “I will do everything I can to protect the district and programs that are vital to the district, and that’s what I did as state senator,” Tisei said. “The mayors should have no fears about me. They should talk to former colleagues who have worked with me in the past instead of listening to John Tierney.”
He cited the backing of Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan, a Democrat, who called Tisei “the finest state delegate that we’ve had here during my 10
years as mayor.” Melrose is not part of the 6th Congressional District.
Tierney, a sharp critic of the Ryan budget plan, has advocated for a Democratic proposal to balance the budget by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans; eliminating certain tax loopholes and subsidies; and growing the tax base by investing in infrastructure, education, technology and other areas.
What Tierney and Tisei could agree on yesterday is that the November election will have broad implications for the 6th District and the nation in the years to come.
“The first vote Richard Tisei will take (if elected) is to empower the people who voted for the Ryan budget and for the people who want to execute that plan,” Tierney said, referring to the vote at the beginning of each new Congress that would presumably re-elect House Speaker John Boehner and Budget Chairman Ryan if the Republicans hold onto power in the chamber.
Tisei “has said he’s comfortable with Ryan’s positions and where he’s going. ... Is he comfortable privatizing Medicare, gutting Medicaid and cutting the tax rate for wealthy Americans to pay for things the middle class relies on?” Tierney said.
Tisei, meanwhile, citing the wide-held belief that Republicans will hang onto power in the lower chamber, said that the district will essentially have no voice if Tierney is re-elected.
“Being elected to Congress as part of the majority will mean I’ll be able to do more for the district and individual communities than John Tierney, and I’ll be able to do a lot more for the state,” Tisei said, adding that there are currently no Massachusetts Republicans in the U.S. House.
“All John Tierney can do is demonize leadership,” Tisei said. “They don’t even take his phone calls.”