PEABODY — John Tierney looked tired but relaxed. He was smiling and joking. There were no visible bruises from what he called one of the nastiest campaigns in the country.
Sitting back in his office overlooking Peabody Square yesterday, the newly re-elected congressman from the 6th District said simply, “We’re glad it’s over.”
Less than 12 hours earlier, Tierney had walked through a gauntlet of cheering supporters in the ballroom of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem to announce, at 12:30 a.m., that he had survived the toughest race of his political career.
Tierney had narrowly escaped a strong challenge from Republican Richard Tisei to win re-election by less than 1 percent of the total vote. The campaign was marked by constant attacks on Tierney and his wife, Patrice, over her brothers’ illegal gambling operation and her role in managing a bank account for one of her brothers.
The obvious bitterness between the two candidates apparently carried over to the day after the election. After questioning the voting process in Lynn, where Tierney won his most votes, Tisei finally conceded the race yesterday afternoon.
Tierney said he never got the traditional congratulatory phone call from Tisei. Instead, Tisei’s campaign manager called Tierney’s campaign manager to congratulate them, Tierney said.
“He’s got to deal with that,” he said when asked about the lack of a call from Tisei. “It’s a testament to his character, whatever he does.”
Even in victory, Tierney did not let up on his criticism of the way that Tisei conducted the campaign. In particular, he lambasted Tisei for taking advantage of more than $5 million in spending by outside groups to pay for ads that attacked Tierney’s wife.
“It was the nastiness and bringing it to this level,” Tierney said. “Some people only get their information from advertisements. The lesson is that it doesn’t serve the democratic process very well. Certainly, I think it corrupts the process and it doesn’t serve the public. Candidates should have to get their own resources.
“It really isn’t about personal stuff,” he said of the campaign. “It’s about what you’re going to do for your constituents.”
Tierney said the Tisei campaign’s allegations of impropriety at the polls in Lynn sounded like “boilerplate tea party commentary.”
“It drives home the point we’ve made that if you take money from that source, you end up talking like them,” he said.
Asked how Patrice, who stood next to him when he made his victory speech early yesterday morning, felt about the victory, Tierney said, “She seems to be relieved that it’s over. It’s been very difficult on her. She paid a terrible price for helping out her nephew and niece.”
Tierney has said his wife was managing the bank account as a way to assist her brother’s children, wife and mother. She served a month in jail after admitting to “willful blindness” in helping him file tax returns that did not disclose the true nature of his income.
Tierney said he is anxious to get back to work in Congress on several issues, including reauthorization of the job-training Workforce Investment Act, President Barack Obama’s jobs bill and the deficit crisis.
Tierney said he hoped that Tuesday’s election sent a message to Republicans in Congress that voters want the two parties to work together, but he sounded skeptical. Right-wing groups like the Young Guns, he said, brag about being uncompromising and extreme.
“We’re certainly willing to work with them,” he said. “We’ve done it for 16 years. I’ve got a track record of doing it.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.