Founders Night

The most impressive part of last night's debate between John Tierney and Bill Hudak in the 6th congressional district race was the crowd. About a thousand charged up people were there to take part on a Thursday evening. That is the way it's supposed to be. I imagined the Founders smiling.

In the first lengthy public debate since his wife pleaded guilty to federal tax crimes last week, US Representative John F. Tierney defended his record last night and blasted his rival for raising the issue.

Tierney had home court advantage where the event sponsors and moderator, the Salem Evening News, could control it. That meant the congressman was allowed to speak beyond his red flag indicating that his time had expired, while Hudak was stopped instantly. It meant that with a simple facial gesture, Tierney could have a question extended for another round of answers.

Republican nominee Bill Hudak, whose campaign had appeared to be sagging before the disclosurs, said Tierney should have known about the $7 million account funded by illegal gambling profits that Patrice Tierney admitted to managing for her brother.

And it meant that Hudak got a pointed question on the appropriateness of putting an anti-Obama sign on his lawn while Tierney faced no questions on his own character and judgment for having allowed his wife to manage $7 milion in illegal gaming monies in apparent violation of the law, and to have the matter swept away and sealed with a determination to answer no questions. None were asked last night, but Hudak brought it up anyway, leading to the only time when the moderator did nothing in response to the crowd interfering with a candidate's ability to answer.

“I knew of no wrongdoing,’’ Tierney said, accusing Hudak of misstating the facts in the case, in which the seven-term Democratic congressman from Salem has not been charged with any crimes.

Tierney was the arrogance of power last night, Hudak was David against the Goliath of incumbency. Except for the crowd, which appeared to be evenly split between the two, with the Hudak side generally being much more enthused and aggressive. But the loyal defenders of the crown had their moments.

Supporters of both candidates lined the streets outside, waving signs, and inside the auditorium repeatedly interrupted the candidates with jeering and applause. A loud argument broke out among audience members when Hudak raised the issue of Tierney’s wife, temporarily delaying the debate.

On display was the energy and excitement of those who seek a return to a constitutional country and the crowd ready to fight to maintain the status quo of Washington. The fact that the latter group, out to support a 14 year veteran of the swamps, was forced to go toe to toe with a crowd of equal size and greater strength was testimony to the wave - whose power, ultimately, will decide whether the socialist, with his disdain for voters, returns to congress.

His reference to overseas accounts provoked hoots from the audience about money from an illegal gambling operation in Antigua that funded the account managed by Tierney’s wife.