Mass. House candidates spar on debate rules
BOSTON (AP) -- Democratic U.S. Rep. John Tierney said Monday he would welcome questions about legal issues surrounding his wife and her family at upcoming debates with Republican challenger Richard Tisei in the state's hotly contested 6th Congressional District race.
Tierney, who has served seven terms, also asked that the first question of Thursday's first scheduled debate be about family. The request follows a Boston Herald report that Tierney had sought assurances from debate organizers that questions would not delve into an illegal offshore gambling operation prosecutors say was run by two brothers of his wife, Patrice Tierney.
In a statement, Tierney said he was happy to address the issue and had only wanted to prevent Tisei from attempting to make it a focus of the debate.
"In working with debate organizers my campaign's intent was to make sure that serious issues like jobs, the economy and health care were not cast aside by my opponent's negative attacks on my wife and her painful family crisis," Tierney said.
Patrice Tierney was sentenced to 30 days in prison last year after pleading guilty to helping file false tax returns for her brother Robert Eremian, who's a fugitive from justice.
Another brother, Daniel Eremian, was sentenced in June in U.S. District Court to serve three years in federal prison for his role in the offshore gambling ring, which operated from Antigua. Following his sentencing, Eremian said the congressman "knew everything" about the operation and had thrown his wife "under the bus" to save his political career.
Tierney has denied knowing about the illegal nature of the business. Patrice Tierney has called her brother's comments false.
The sponsors of Thursday's debate at North Shore Community College, CommonWealth Magazine and the public policy group MassINC, did not immediately respond Monday to Tierney's request.
The organizers of the debate, which also will include Libertarian Party candidate Daniel Fishman, had previously agreed to Tierney's demand to drop from the format any one-on-one questioning by the candidates of each other.
Tisei, a former state senator and 2010 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, had blasted Tierney's earlier bid to block any questions about ethics. On Monday, he accused the Democrat of again trying to change the rules of the debate.
"John Tierney just wants to do whatever it takes to keep his job," Tisei said in a statement. "Like a leaf blowing in the wind, when Tierney saw how everyone reacted to his getting caught trying to change the debate rules, he turned around and changed them back."
The Tierney campaign said Monday that Tisei's attacks on his ethics were an attempt to distract voters from the Republican's "Tea Party positions."