The Massachusetts Democratic primary this coming Tuesday will likely be a sleepy affair with the exception of what’s happening in the northeastern sector. It is here where the 6th Congressional District is housed and it’s nine-term incumbent, Rep. John Tierney (D-Salem), may not survive a stiff primary challenge.
Tierney was a surprise winner in 2012, an odd statement when describing an incumbent’s electoral prospects, but even the congressman himself thought his congressional career was coming to an end. Six weeks before the election, he pulled his advertising and indicated he was no longer going to spend campaign money.
You will likely remember that Tierney’s political trouble two years ago was largely because of his wife’s exploits. Early in 2011, Patrice Tierney was convicted of federal tax fraud for “aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns” by her brother, Robert Eremian. Ms. Tierney’s other brother, Daniel Eremian, was convicted of racketeering and operating an illegal internet gambling operation located on the island of Antigua. Daniel was sentenced to three years in federal prison, of which he served two and was released. Robert Eremian remains a fugitive. Ms. Tierney was sentenced to 30 days in federal prison, and five months of house arrest.
Under this backdrop, Tierney faced former Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei in the 2012 election. Though serving 26 years in the state legislature, the vast majority of his legislative seat was not in the 6th District. Despite the partisan odds against him, most believed that Tisei would win the 2012 election. Losing by just one percentage point amongst a huge turnout of over 389,000 voters – more than any other congressional district in Massachusetts – Tisei is now attempting to reverse his prospects and again run for Congress with a full head of steam.
But it’s conceivable he may not face a vulnerable Rep. Tierney again. Four Democrats are challenging the incumbent on Tuesday, with one proving himself as a prime contender. Former Iraq military veteran Seth Moulton, who describes himself as a “progressive Democrat” and admits to agreeing with Tierney on almost all the issues, is waging a major challenge. Armed with what is approaching $2 million in campaign funds, Moulton may be the alternative to Tierney that rank-and-file Democratic voters may be looking toward. He is a strong liberal who commanded troops in Iraq, serving four tours of combat duty in a five-year period. He stresses his opposition to the war but repeatedly served his country in battle, irrespective of his own feelings and beliefs.
With a viable alternative, the district’s Democrats may well turn to Moulton, thus denying Rep. Tierney renomination and forcing his exit from Congress. The MA-6 race makes Tuesday’s primary, the last major nomination date of the 2014 election cycle, something more than a pro forma election.
The 6th District occupies the territory from the northern Boston suburbs of Saugus and Lynn, travels through the famous old witch town of Salem, and all the way to the New Hampshire border. It then stretches west to the towns of Tewksbury and Billerica. Though a reliably Democratic seat, it is a district that could elect a Republican. When the GOP carried the governor’s race in four consecutive elections until current Gov. Deval Patrick (D) broke the streak in 2006, the 6th went for the Republican candidate each time.
Tierney was first elected in 1996, unseating two-term Republican Rep. Peter Torkildsen in a close election after losing to him in the 1994 GOP landslide. Since 1998, inclusive, Tierney has averaged 66 percent of the vote, not including his 46-45 percent victory in 2012. This is his first serious Democratic primary challenge.