With a recent poll showing him trailing his opponent, US Representative John F. Tierney has launched a scathing new television ad that tries to tar his moderate prochoice Republican challenger as a conservative who wants to restrict access to abortion and birth control.
The ad says Richard R. Tisei “defended the Tea Party Republican platform,” with a constitutional amendment banning abortion, even in cases of rape or incest or a threat to the life of the mother.
As evidence, the ad points to Tisei’s comment about the GOP platform in August: “It is what it is.”
But those comments are incomplete, and, like other elements of the ad, misleading.
The quotation came from an interview on WCVB-TV in which Tisei said that he agreed with US Senator Scott Brown’s vocal opposition to the national platform.
“I don’t think the government should be controlling people’s lives and individual decisions,” Tisei said in the interview. “I think Scott Brown was right to do what he did. I don’t feel comfortable with every plank in the Republican platform. I know Scott doesn’t either. But it is what it is. I know what I do believe in and feel very strongly about it.”
Tisei later spoke out more forcefully on the issue, when he discouraged the Massachusetts Republican State Committee from adopting the national platform as its own.
Tisei, who is openly gay, said that the national platform, which opposes both abortion and gay marriage, “espouses beliefs that exclude many in our party, including myself.”
State committee members ultimately tabled their vote on the issue.
In an interview Thursday, Tierney campaign manager Matt Robison defended the ad.
Tisei, he said, has failed to deliver on his pledge to be an outspoken voice in the Republican Party, even sitting out the Republican National Convention in Tampa where the platform was approved.
“He’s not taking any action,” Robison said.
“He’s not going to lift a finger against one of the most right-wing Tea Party-infused party platforms in recent history,” he added.
Tisei’s campaign manager issued a statement calling the congressman “shameless.” In an interview, Tisei called the Tierney campaign’s depiction of him so “far-fetched” that the ads have attracted national attention.
“I am the only candidate in the US who’s prochoice, who’s gay, who wouldn’t sign the Norquist antitax pledge, being vilified as a Tea Party extremist,” Tisei said in the interview.
The TV ads, which began airing Thursday, cost about $300,000 and are expected to run for a week, Robison said.
Tisei has benefited from attack ads by a conservative group trying to tie Tierney to a scandal that involved his brothers-in-law.
Tierney’s wife, Patrice, went to prison in 2010 after being convicted on tax fraud charges involving her brothers’ illegal gambling operation. Tierney, who was not implicated in the case, has nonetheless been implicated in those ads.
Tisei suggested his support by conservative elements of the party is not indicative of his own political leanings.
“They’re accepting me,” Tisei said. “I’m not accepting them.”
A Boston Globe poll published Monday found Tisei leading Tierney 37 percent to 31 percent among likely voters, with 30 percent undecided. Just 32 percent of likely voters had a favorable view of Tierney (compared to 43 percent unfavorable), while 37 percent did not know enough about Tisei, the poll showed.
In trying to support their claims of Tisei’s uncertain record on abortion rights, the Tierney campaign incorrectly stated that on a vote on emergency contraception, Tisei had voted to let hospital workers turn away rape victims if they had moral objections to providing contraception.
In fact, Tisei had done just the opposite, arguing against such an amendment.
Republican US Senator Scott Brown is set to pick up the endorsement of the prototypical Massachusetts moderate Friday morning, William F. Weld, the former governor.
A half-hour later, opponent Elizabeth Warren will receive the endorsement of a member of a storied Democratic family, President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline.
While not a surprise, Weld’s endorsement is a reminder of the 1996 Senate race, when Weld gave Democratic US Senator John F. Kerry a strong challenge, ultimately losing by 7 percentage points.
The dynamics were similar to the current race between Brown and Democrat Warren, with Weld the more personally popular candidate working against a Democrat in a presidential year.
Ultimately, party politics — the debate over which party would control the Senate — helped foil Weld’s bid. Kerry formally endorsed Warren last week.
Weld, who served as governor from 1991 through 1997, now works for McDermott Will & Emery as an attorney. Though he lives in New York, Weld remains an active voice, and an enduring influence, in the Massachusetts Republican Party. The endorsement is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Brown’s South Boston headquarters.
At 10 a.m., Kennedy, a New Yorker active in Democratic and philanthropic circles, will campaign with Warren at the Zelma Lacey House, an assisted-living facility in Charlestown. Both women will be joined by Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, who endorsed Warren last month.