Attorney Bill Hudak challenging seven-term incumbent John Tierney in contentious campaign race

By Chris Shores

14 years ago, lifelong Salem resident John F. Tierney edged out incumbent Peter G. Torkildsen by just 400 votes to become congressman for Massachusetts’ Sixth District.

Since the 1996 election, Tierney has become a regular in the House of Representatives, winning reelection six times, collecting over 68 percent of the vote in each of the last four elections. To gain an eighth term, he will need to defeat Bill Hudak, an attorney from Boxford with no former political experience.

Hudak isn’t concerned with his inexperience in politics, however. In fact, he believes it will allow him to do the job better.

“I am a big believer that you don’t need to have political experience,” he said in a phone interview. Those who do can “get tied down with the mechanics of politics, instead of being able to truly focus on what the problems are,” he explained.

“I am not a professional politician,” he added. “I look at a problem and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a Republican idea, Democratic idea, [a] liberal or [a] conservative idea. It’s a matter of solving the problem with the most creative and logical matter that we can solve it.”

In his 27 years as an attorney, Hudak said he has fought for the “interests” of people, something he would continue to do in Congress if elected. But he also noted that he believes in “limiting government,” an issue he says that Tierney and himself “couldn’t be more opposite” on.

 Hudak commented that Tierney has consistently voted for higher taxes, which can cripple a business.

“I would always tend to reduce taxes so that businesses have more to spend, whereas he would try to punish them by taxing them and redistributing their wealth to nonproductive sectors of society.”

Tierney could not be reached for comment, but said in a recent debate that Hudak’s claims were incorrect, as reported by the Lowell Sun. He clarified his positions on tax cuts, saying that he advocated extending tax cuts on families that make less than $250,000 a year and on individuals who earn less than $200,000 annually.

“Every economist will tell you that the problem is, we need to get the economy going and people need to start spending,” said Tierney in the debate.

In a recent campaign ad, Tierney also stressed the importance of “creating [and] saving jobs.”

“I’m focused on creating jobs,” he said in the television spot. “We have a work ethic here in Massachusetts and people just want the opportunity to work. We have the ability here to be the best trained, best skilled work force around.”

In the last four decades, a Democrat has held the congressional position in the sixth district for 37 of 41 years. Torkildsen’s two terms in Congress prior to Tierney were the first by a Republican in the post since their 82 consecutive year reign of the position ended in 1969.

Despite the overwhelming success Tierney has seen in recent elections, Hudak still believes he has a chance to win in a district he called generally “very conservative.”

“I don’t believe this district is completely blue,” he said, citing the district’s prevailing support for Scott Brown in January’s special senatorial election.

“The only reason we don’t have a two-party system is because the Republican Party has not done a good job to field good candidates. At least the district I’m in… the demographics point to it to be a Republican conservative district.”

The New York Times’ Election 2010 profile of the race disagreed with Hudak, calling the district “solid democratic” and predicting for the incumbent a 98 percent chance of victory.

It has been a contentious campaign for the two candidates, to say the least. 

Earlier this month, on Oct. 6, Tierney’s wife Patrice pleaded guilty to falsifying her brother’s federal tax returns, covering an illegal investment that the Boston Herald reported as a “$7 million ownership stake in a Caribbean gambling operation.”

Online videos of a debate that took place live on FOX 25 the next day show the candidates talking over one another and arguing for minutes at a time about Patrice’s tax fraud and other issues.

Just days later, the Hudak campaign released an advertisement called “John Tierney: Not Paying Taxes.”

“Tierney raises taxes on our families, but thinks it’s OK for his own not to pay theirs,” the campaign advertisement claimed.

According to the Boston Globe, during an Oct. 15 debate in Beverly, Hudak addressed Tierney, saying, “You’re in office and engaged in a massive laundering scheme, and you’re looking the other way.”
Tierney responded by criticizing Hudak’s insistence in holding the Congressman accountable for his wife’s actions. “As a lawyer, you should know better,” he told Hudak. “I knew of no wrongdoing.”

Hudak meanwhile has been asked during the campaign to address his decision to put up a lawn sign prior to the 2008 election that portrayed Barack Obama as Osama Bin Laden.

The sign was a “parody” designed to have people examine the candidate more closely before voting, said Hudak to Maria Stephanos during the FOX debate. “I regret that some people were offended that that was not a flattering portrait of the candidate then, but I don’t regret standing up saying, ‘I’m very concerned with the policies that are going to be imposed.’”

During the aforementioned debate held Oct. 15 in Beverly, Hudak argued the satire was a “simple exercise of [his] first amendment rights.”

The Boston Globe then reported the Congressman told Hudak that no one is questioning his right to put up the sign, but rather, “the maturity, temperament and judgment in doing that.”

Last Monday, Hudak filed a libel lawsuit against his opponent. He claimed Tierney lied in his latest campaign video and that the Congressman said incorrectly that Hudak wants to “eliminate the home mortgage deduction” and “shift the tax burden from the wealthiest to the middle class.” According to the Salem News, Hudak dropped the case the following day after a judge told him that no witness testimony would be heard before the election.

The Eagle-Tribune reports that during the campaign’s final debate, held last Thursday in Lynn, the two candidates addressed the libel suit.

“[Tierney] is not fit to continue to be our representative,” said Hudak during his closing statement. “What has happened in the last two weeks has been the most anti-American, unreasonable slam campaign I have ever seen.”

During Tierney’s closing statements, the Congressman then reportedly showed the audience a folder of documents he said proves his claims used in the campaign ad against Hudak.

“When this was filed, [Hudak] decided to turn tail and run,” said Tierney. “The only issue outstanding now is how much he will pay in attorney’s fees and costs for putting us and the taxpayer through the effort of tying up the court.”

The Sixth District of Massachusetts contains a majority of Essex County and parts of Middlesex County.

It includes the towns and cities of Amesbury, Bedford, Beverly, Boxford, Burlington, Danvers, Essex, Georgetown, Groveland, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynn, Lynnfield, Manchester, Marblehead, Merrimac, Middleton, Nahant, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, North Reading, Peabody, Reading, Rockport, Rowley, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wakefield, Wenham, West Newbury and Wilmington.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]