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US Rep. John Tierney tries to undercut bipartisan message of Richard Tisei with a new ad

Republican Richard Tisei is trying to channel the bipartisan message of US Sen. Scott Brown in his campaign against US Rep. John Tierney, but Tierney is attempting to undercut that claim by running a negative ad describing Tisei as an extremist supporter of the Tea Party.

As images of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich scroll across the screen, the Tierney ad uses snippets of Tisei quotes to imply that the former state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor supports an agenda that would outlaw abortion, restrict birth control, and push for billionaire tax cuts and middle class tax hikes.

“Anyone who knows me knows this is so over the top,” Tisei says.

Watching the ad on a laptop at his campaign headquarters in Lynnfield, Tisei says the quotes ascribed to him are taken out of context and distort his actual views. For example, one part of the ad says Tisei “defends extreme Republican anti-choice views, saying quote: ‘It is what it is.’” Yet the justification for the claim and the “It is what it is” quote come from a TV interview in which Tisei described himself as prochoice and said the government shouldn’t be controlling people’s lives. In response to a question about the abortion plank in the Republican Party’s platform, Tisei said: “I don’t feel comfortable with every plank in the Republican platform. I know Scott Brown doesn’t either, but it is what it is.”

The openly gay Tisei says he is a fiscal conservative and a social moderate who intends to go to Washington and work with members of both parties to get the country back on track. Like Brown, Tisei is trumpeting the support of Democrats to prove that he is a candidate with bipartisan appeal. Tisei says Americans are frustrated with the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. “After this election, there needs to be a lot of working together,” he says, noting Tierney votes 97 percent of the time in lockstep with his party.

Asked if he supports just spending cuts to rein in the federal budget deficit or a combination of cuts and new taxes, Tisei hedged. He said the budget needs to be cut and waste eliminated. “We do need more revenue,” he added, noting that he did not sign Grover Norquist’s pledge against new taxes. But Tisei was vague about what new revenues he would support, suggesting, without getting specific, that he would close loopholes and eliminate deductions.

The stakes are high in the Tierney-Tisei race, with money pouring in from outside the state. The conservative Young Guns PAC, which has close ties to Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both Tea Party favorites, is pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars and negative ads into the race focusing on the conviction of Tierney’s wife and brother-in-law on charges related to laundering illegal Internet gambling money.

The House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic candidates for Congress, has also reserved air time in October on Boston TV stations. Tisei said the House Majority PAC’s ads will be directed at him, but a Tierney spokesman said he didn’t know which race the PAC would target. PAC officials, who may be aiming their advertising at New Hampshire races, did not return phone calls.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The action is also heavy on the ground in the Sixth Congressional District. When Tisei hosted a press conference on Thursday at his headquarters with Democrats who support him, dozens of Tierney supporters showed up outside with signs casting him as an extremist. “That means we’re doing pretty well,” Tisei said, pointing to the Tierney backers.

In a WBUR poll released this week, Tierney led Tisei by a margin of 39 to 32 percent, with Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman receiving 6 percent support.