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What’s next for John Tierney?

Representative John Tierney after he conceded the primary election in September.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file/Globe Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As boxes and trash bins line the doorway of his Capitol Hill office, the time is coming for US Representative John Tierney to plot his next career move.

As the first sitting Democrat from Massachusetts in 22 years to be defeated by a member of his own party, Tierney finds himself in unfamiliar territory for the delegation: the job search.

Tierney's office declined to comment on his plans after his term ends next month, but as budget deals are reached and the lame-duck congressional session winds down, he will have to find his next post.

Former congressman Barney Frank, who served in the House for 32 years before retiring in 2013, said he has had conversations with Tierney since his loss and does not think the former lawyer will return to practicing law. Frank said he hoped to see Tierney move into a role where he could advocate in areas in which he developed expertise in Congress, such as education or national security spending.

"I hope that he'll continue to use his public policy skills," Frank said. "I would hope he'd find a way to put some of that expertise to use."


After eight terms in the House, Tierney found himself politically vulnerable when his wife was convicted of tax fraud. The 63-year-old lost to Seth Moulton, a 36-year-old veteran, in a primary election.

US Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, said that right now Tierney is keeping his options open.

"Part of the challenge for anybody who's moving on is we're not done yet," McGovern said. "We're trying to avoid a government shutdown. You still have a full-time job."

McGovern noted that there hasn't been much time for reflection for Tierney following his midterm loss, saying he has remained very engaged since conceding to Moulton. According to House voting records, Tierney has missed just two of 36 votes in November and so far this month.


"He ran for office because he cares about the issues," McGovern said. "That hasn't changed with the election results."

Both McGovern and Frank highlighted Tierney's oversight on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Tierney sat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and during his tenure introduced legislation to commission a study of government contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. He additionally proposed significant cuts to the Missile Defense Agency that were rejected in a House vote.

Tierney also introduced higher education reforms; one of his proposals that forgave federal loans for students pursuing public service jobs was included in a 2008 law.

Like many representatives leaving office this year — either by choice or due to a loss — Tierney will probably find ample interest in his skill set on K Street.

The Center For Responsible Politics and Remapping Debate tracks where members of Congress work after leaving office. According to its data, about half of the 97 lawmakers who left Congress following the 2012 election have found new employment.

Sixty-one percent of those working former lawmakers are on a lobbying firm or client's payroll, representing the gamut from companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield to the Heritage Foundation.

Following the 2010 races, 118 representatives and senators left Congress. Fifty-six percent of the 79 members who found employment have ties to lobbying clients or lobbying firms.

With 31 lawmakers retiring and 21 losing either primary or general election races, it's likely that revolving door will soon be in full swing again.


Frank said he doesn't have general advice for the lawmakers leaving Congress this year. He said the paths people take after Congress are influenced by factors such as age, financial security, and children.

He noted his situation was different from Tierney's because he voluntarily retired. Frank said in most lines of work there's an ambivalence when you leave, especially if you do so in your 70s. But not from Congress.

"I did not want to work very hard," he said. "I was exhausted."

When Frank left the Hill, he said, he struggled the most with no longer having a large staff to support him.

McGovern said that no matter where Tierney works next year, he has no doubt the men will remain close friends.

“He and I both got elected to Congress the same year,” McGovern said. “In addition to forming a friendship with him, I’ve admired the work he’s done and appreciated him as a colleague.”