Friday, October 22, 2004
Meehan vs. Tierney: congressional candidates agree on many issues
As Congressman Marty Meehan squared off against Republican challenger Tom Tierney in a debate last Thursday, the candidates appeared to agree more than they disagreed. The candidates for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from the Fifth Congressional District met in a debate sponsored by the Concord Forum held at the Parker Middle School in Chelmsford.
One of the most pointed questions of the evening was Tierney's question to Meehan at the end of the hour-long debate. Tierney asked Meehan what he planned to do with the $4.2 million in cash contributions in his political coffers (as of September 30) if he lost to Tierney. Tierney said that many believe that Meehan is planning to use the money for a Senate run if Senator John Kerry wins the Presidential election. Meehan answered, "I expect to win this campaign... The people will decide." He added, "They always do." Pollsters expect Meehan to roll into a sixth term.
Meehan, a graduate of Suffolk Law School, was first elected in 1992, when he unseated Congressman Chet Atkins. During that campaign Meehan said he would not stay in office for more than 12 years. Later he reversed that position, he says, because constituents in town meetings he held asked him to. Meehan contends he would support any legislation proposed to limit terms, but he says that he believes campaign finance reform is the more important issue right now.
Challenger Tierney is a consulting actuary and consumer activist who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and currently resides in Framingham. He is a graduate of Boston College with a bachelor's degree in physics and Northeastern University with a master's degree in actuarial science. Tierney is also a father of three adult children, a former Little League baseball coach, and an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Both Meehan and Tierney expressed strong support for social security, providing health care to all citizens, and improving schools.
Meehan is running on a platform that includes a health care system that he says should provide citizens of the United States with access to the same health care that senators and congressmen have.
In an area on which most Republicans and Democrats disagree — taxes — both candidates said that they support a tax increase to families earning more than $200,000 per year.
"The people in our generation are cheating our children," said Tierney, who says the recent tax cuts to the wealthy are not tax cuts, but tax deferrals. "The Piper will have to be paid ... We have to get back to fiscal discipline." Meehan agreed: "We need to get our fiscal house in order."
War in Iraq
The debate, which was broadcast live on Chelmsford cable, also addressed the war in Iraq. Meehan is a vocal critic of the war, and both candidates said that the intelligence agencies have to work more closely with the military's special forces.
There was little division on immigration and illegal alien issues, the PATRIOT Act, and the Marriage Protection Act.
Meehan said that Attorney General John Ashcroft has "abused the PATRIOT Act." Tierney agreed that, "one substantive problem [with the PATRIOT Act] is that it allows the government to spy on our citizenry and allows the government to shoot from the hip without checks and balances from the federal judiciary."
On the Marriage Protection Act, proposed federal legislation, Congressman Meehan said, "There are too many divisions on this issue. It should be a state issue. The proposed Marriage Protection Act divided people. It was clear from the beginning that it was never going to pass."
On the same-sex marriage issue, Tierney said, "There are more important things to be considering. Human nature will give us the answer."
Both candidates had ideas on how to improve the issue of undocumented workers in the United States. Meehan said these workers should have the opportunity to earn citizenship status. "We need to have more secure borders," Tierney said. "But even with perfect borders there are undocumented workers in the United States right now that need to be identified and categorized."
Tierney, who has been criticized by some conservative groups as being a Democrat in Republican clothing, says that he has voted in ten Presidential elections and openly states that he has voted for seven Republicans, one Democrat (Jimmy Carter), one Independent (Ross Perot), and one third-party candidate, Ralph Nader in 2000.
Tierney, who says he would like to be a Congressman because he "would like to create law," says that his actuarial background will give him the tools needed to save the Social Security system in the United States.
© 2004 The