John F. Tierney (born September 18, 1951) is the United States representative for Massachusetts's 6th congressional district. He is a member of the Democratic Party and an advocate for liberal policies and government oversight. A former attorney, he has served since 1997.
Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Tierney graduated from Salem State College and earned his law degree from Suffolk University Law School. He co-founded the community law firm Tierney, Kalis, & Lucas in 1981 and served on the Salem Chamber of Commerce from 1976 to 1997. Tierney first ran for the House of Representatives in 1994 against Republican incumbent Peter G.
Torkildsen, losing by a small margin. He defeated in Torkildsen by a small margin in 1996, and was sworn in as a U.S. representative in 1997. His district, located in northeastern Massachusetts, contains most of Essex County, including the North Shore and Cape Ann.
As a liberal member of Congress, Tierney has voted in line with the other Democratic representatives from Massachusetts. He sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor, where his priorities include green energy and increased college access.
He coauthored several pieces of legislation, including the Green Jobs Act of 2007 and College Affordability and Accountability Act of 2008. He sits on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is the former chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. On this committee he helped establish the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan and chaired a hearing over scandalous conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Since 1996 Tierney has won re-election in each term by a comfortable margin, although he faced a challenge in 2010 after his wife Patrice was convicted of felony tax fraud.
Early life, education and career
John F. Tierney was born September 18, 1951, in Salem, Massachusetts.
His mother, Doris H. (Gelineau) Tierney, was a Salem native who worked a split shift at the New England Telephone Company, where she remained for 42 years. His father, Albert R. Tierney, was a bookkeeper for Nabisco and a local fuel company. Tierney was one of three children, along with his brother Michael A. and sister Catherine. He moved with his family to his grandmother's home when he was five years old. He began working at the Kernwood Country Club in Salem as a caddy when he was eight and soon adopted a paper route. He later attended Salem High School. When he was young, Tierney campaigned for his uncle, a Peabody ward councilor, and he ascribes his political interest in part to this experience.
Tierney attended Salem State College, majoring in political science.
While in college he performed work study, while also stocking shelves at a grocery store, working in sales at a clothing store, and performing deliveries. For three years he was president of his class, and his final year he served as president of the Salem State Student Government Association (SGA). As SGA president he responded to racial incidents on campus by organizing a schoolwide meeting leading to several days of discussion. He graduated in 1973, and returned in 2009 to give a commencement address, receiving an honorary degree.
While working as a law office clerk and a State House janitor, Tierney attended Suffolk University Law School. He graduated with a J.D. in 1976, and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. He worked as a solo practitioner until 1981, when he became a partner at the North Shore community law firm Tierney, Kalis, & Lucas. He remained at the firm until taking office in 1997. Tierney served on the Salem Chamber of Commerce from 1976 to 1997, becoming the organization's president in 1995.
U.S. House of Representatives
Tierney first ran for Congress in 1994 against one-term Republican incumbent Peter G. Torkildsen, having won a competitive Democratic primary with a plurality of 33.8 percent. He ran on a platform promoting a stronger federal focus on drug abuse, federal aid to promote after-school programs, consideration of means testing for Social Security, and single-payer health care. A primary issue in the campaign was crime: Tierney criticized Torkildsen for his vote against a 1994 crime bill, and advocated stronger gun control, while Torkildsen criticized Tierney's positions on gun control and drug legalization. Tierney was defeated in the general election by four percentage points. Tierney successfully ran for Congress in 1996, defeating Torkildsen by a narrow margin and increasing his margin in a 1998 rematch.
Over the next five elections he faced Republican challengers Paul McCarthy, Mark C. Smith, Stephen P. O'Malley, Jr., Richard W. Barton, and Richard A. Baker, respectively, winning 64 to 68 percent of the vote each time. In the 2010 congressional election he defeated Republican candidate Bill Hudak with 57 percent of the vote.
Tierney, described as "an unwavering liberal" by CQ's Politics in America, has consistently high approval ratings from Democratic and liberal interest groups such as Americans for Democratic Action and low approval ratings from conservative groups such as the American Conservative Union. His votes have been closely aligned with the other nine Democratic representatives from his state. Described as "a favorite of the House Democratic leadership," he maintains a close relationship with former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Her daughter Christine Pelosi served as his chief of staff from 2001 to 2005. Tierney was speculated as a candidate to succeed United States Senator Ted Kennedy in a special election after Kennedy's death in 2009, but he decided against a run. Washington paper The Hill has published speculation that Tierney, with a $1.3 million war chest, is a likely candidate to run against Kennedy's successor Scott Brown in the 2012 election.
Tierney dated Patrice M. (Eremian) Chew of Marblehead throughout his 1996 campaign. They married in a small ceremony in April 1997, and now live in Salem, where Patrice works as a jewelry designer. Tierney has three stepchildren from his wife's first marriage. In June 2000, Tierney's stepson John Chew was arrested when about 25 grams (0.9 oz) of cocaine and $1,000 in cash were found in his Marblehead apartment.
November 22nd, 2011