Lynn, Lynn the city of substance

Everybody went to a fight in Lynn yesterday and a debate broke out.

Partisans, voters and media packed the gym at the Lynn campus of North Shore Community College yesterday for the first face-to-face encounter between US Rep. John Tierney and his Republican opponent Richard Tisei, with Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman seated between them, a position that left some fearing for his physical safety.

But while the race, among the nastiest in the country, let alone Massachusetts, had moments of tension, there were no fireworks over the elephant in the gym: Tierney’s problems over the conviction of his wife and brother-in-law in connection with an illegal offshore Internet gambling operation run by his brother-in-law.

The Boston Globe took note of it being a “civil” debate and said there were “few sparks” while the Boston Herald played up the “testy” exchanges, in which Tierney took the offense as a matter of defense. But both papers got it into their leads that the 70-minute battle was notable for what it lacked.

The debate, sponsored by MassINC and CommonWealth magazine, was formatted to focus on the single policy issue of the American Dream and the economy’s effect on jobs and the middle class. Many of the TV stations noted the restrictions on the format because Tierney insisted on no candidate-to-candidate questioning out of fear Tisei would use it to launch attacks against him about family.

But there were no restrictions placed on how and what the candidates could answer in their responses. As CommonWealth editor Bruce Mohl, who served as moderator, noted in his introduction, “Our goal is not to prevent the candidates from discussing issues of importance to them, but to make sure they discuss issues of importance to voters.”

Many of the reports observed that there were openings, either in the answers or in their closing statements, for Tisei to bring the matter up but he told reporters outside afterwards that he felt somewhat restricted by the format and didn’t bring it up “out of respect” to the debate organizers.

Tierney was battered all week about his demands but then came full circle and called for the first question to be about his family to get it out of the way. He insisted to the media afterwards that he had placed no restrictions on the debate, a claim that Mohl straightened out later with Greater Boston, though the link has not yet been posted. Suffice to say, Tierney’s claim and Mohl’s view do not mesh.

Tierney constantly brought up Tisei’s support by the conservative Young Guns Action Fund, which is pumping nearly millions in attack ads into the race. Tierney claims that a vote for Tisei is a vote for right wing extremism was batted back by Tisei’s touting of his ability to work with Democrats in his 26 years in the State House, including his final years as Senate Minority Leader.

The most substantive coverage came from the media outlets in the Sixth Congressional District that had the most interest in the meat of the race, rather than the sizzle. Tisei staked out his support of the GOP plan of keeping Medicare intact for those 55 and over, while Tierney claimed repeal of the health care reform would bring back the “donut hole” on prescription coverage for seniors. There was also back and forth over the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, which is a growing industry on the North Shore. And the brief answers in the “lightning round” offered a few insights into the three candidates.

Fishman, the libertarian, was overlooked in most of the exchanges but he had some of the best lines, including that he should be viewed as “the Sierra Club of health care,” when asked how he’d enact reform.

“I believe it’s my civic duty to run for office,” Fishman said. “My job is to protect you from my opinion, not impose it on you.” If only all candidates were so honest.

                                                                                                                                        –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Special courts are being set up to deal with the expected flood of cases related to the tainted drug tests used to convict defendants. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is worried about crime as the drug lab scandal springs criminals from jail, the Herald reports.

State and federal regulators have fined Goldman Sachs $16 million in connection with a “pay to play” scheme that involved a former company executive who helped the firm land a lucrative bond deal with an office overseen by former state treasurer Tim Cahill, for whom the Goldman executive formerly worked.  

Treasurer Steve Grossman says the state could generate over $330 million in revenue by taxing items purchased online. Via the Boston Business Journal.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

An Essex County grand jury investigating the administration of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua interviews the city’s bilingual education coordinator and a policeman, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Friction is rising between Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy and City Councilor (and former mayor) Rita Mercier, the Sun reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vows to veto all new spending until the legislature cuts taxes, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.

Conservative bomb-tosser Ann Coulter has a new book that dismisses Democrats as civil rights leaders and says it is Republicans that blacks should thank for their freedom.

The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld examines how his former colleague, Eric Fehrnstrom, is counseling his two clients, Mitt Romney and Scott Brown, to do two very different things.

ELECTION 2012

The Globe reports that “robocalls” targeting Elizabeth Warren containing some “errors” from the group run by former Bush hand Karl Rove have begun flooding the lines of Massachusetts voters. The Republican story is here. A WBUR story analyzes the starkly different positions of US Sen. Scott Brown and Warren on regulating Wall Street. Matt Lattimer of The Daily Beast decries the deplorable state of US politics, with exhibit No. 1 being the Brown-Warren race. Steven Syre of the Globe dismisses Brown’s attacks on Warren for her work on behalf of large corporations, saying: Who do you think big business wants to win?

The Talking Points Memo Senate scoreboard puts the Massachusetts race in the Democratic column based on 34 recent polls. The composite poll results: Warren – 48.6%, Brown – 46.2%. The overall TPM Senate scoreboard tally: D-52, R-45, with three toss-ups (Montana, Missouri, North Dakota).

The Washington Post provides an exhaustive fact-check of Warren’s Native American heritage claims and concludes that while Warren may have used bad judgement, Brown’s charges merit two Pinocchios, since they are “not supported by available evidence.”

Joseph Kennedy III and Sean Bielat square off in a debate on Channel 5 that focuses on experience, WBUR reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unable to get some face time with President Obama, will have a lengthy phone chat today with his old friend Mitt Romney about Israeli security and Iran.

The MetroWest Daily News remarks on the curious spectacle of Mitt Romney cozying up to Bill Clinton.

Romney’s decision to add Paul Ryan to the ticket may have dashed his hopes among seniors who want to see Medicare  stay just the way it is. And from the “I’ve seen everything now department,” our former governor may actually start singing the praises of Romneycare.

He’s still talking: Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin says Senator Claire McCaskill was “more ladylike” during the 2006 election.

FISHING

The New England Fishery Management Council voted yesterday to allow fishing in areas that have been closed for years to allow stocks to rebound.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Getting more love than anywhere outside their own homes, the NFL’s regular referees returned to work last night in the Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens game and got a standing ovation from the fans as they walked on the field. Don’t expect it to last, guys.

EDUCATION

The otherwise irrepressible voice of John Silber is silenced with his death at 86. Here’s WBUR’s remembrance. James Aloisi reflects on Silber’s 1990 run for governor.

Should President Obama win reelection, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, plans to stay on board for a second term, National Journal reports.

Walden Media president Michael Flaherty, who served as an aide to to former Senate president William Bulger, talks about his company’s production of a controversial movie that has teachers unions up in arms about school choice.

The executive director of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School resigns to reduce administrative overhead, the Gloucester Times reports.

Foxboro students score above the state average on MCAS, the Attleboro Sun Chronicle reports.

MIT’s new president pushes online learning in his inaugural address, the Cambridge Chronicle reports.

HEALTH CARE

Steward Health Care ends its three-year bid to buy Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, R.I., the Globe reports. The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says Steward’s “only interest was the bottom line.” The Woonsocket Patch reports Landmark has a new unidentified suitor. Meanwhile, Steward cancels its contract with Cambridge-based  health insurer Senior Whole Health, the Globe reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Rick Sullivan, the secretary of energy and environmental affairs, comes to Salem as chairman of the Salem Harbor Power Station Task Force and promises to clean up the old oil power plant, the Salem News reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A previously impounded search warrant affidavit in the rape case against well-known Quincy developer William O’Connell states that the young girl he was allegedly having sex with says she did tell him she was only 14.

A Lawence liquor store clerk locks herself inside the building with a thief until police arrive, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Three 40-foot copper gutters are stolen from the Dracut library, the Lowell Sun reports.

MEDIA

One third of adults under 30 get their news via social networks, Poynter reports.

The Atlantic is having some success in the digital world. Gigaom examines why.

A Hong Kong billionaire offers $64 million to the man who can marry his gay daughter, Time reports.

The Globe and Herald run similar stories on Elizabeth Warren’s work for a large steel corporation on the same day.