File this one under "Campaign 2012 Oddities."
Fox 25 hosted a debate for the Sixth District candidates Thursday evening, but there was one noticable absence: incumbent Congressman John Tierney.
Tierney, a Democrat who has represented the district since 1997, did not attend the debate, as illustrated on the coverage with an empty chair with a microphone on it.
"We have asked the congressman repeatedly here at Fox 25 to join us at this debate," Fox 25's Maria Stephanos said. "We gave him a whole host of dates that he could come in going all the way back to Sept. 20. His campaign has declined our request again and again saying that he has a full schedule."
Republican Richard Tisei of Wakefield was there, with Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman of Beverly. All three of them are running for the seat in the Sixth District, which includes Hamilton and Wenham.
"I feel a little like Clint Eastwood that we're going to be debating an empty chair," Tisei said, seemingly amused. "Maria, maybe it was the last time he did a debate with you."
Tisei was referring to a debate on Fox 25 in 2010 in which Tierney seemed frustrated with Stephanos.
"I think it's unfortunate that the congressman chose not to come, because I think his ideas deserve fair representation," Fishman said. "And without him being here to represent them, they're not going to be heard."
Tisei and Fishman then discussed the sluggish economy. Asked what his first legislative effort would be, Fishman spoke about his idea for a bill he called "The First Three are Free."
"If an employer wants to hire an employee right now, it costs him as much paperwork to hire one as to hire one million," Fishman said. "Getting that first thing of paperwork out of the way would allow the 20 million small businesses that have no employees to hire one person right now. If even a sixth of them hired an employee, it will put 3 million people back to work right away."
Tisei said his first act in Congress would be a push to repeal the medical device excise tax included in the Affordable Care Act.
"We have one of the largest clusters of medical device companies up on the North Shore. It's been the one bright spot in our economy, and everybody whose looked at this has said it's a bad tax, you already have companies implementing hiring freezes and saying that they're going to maybe do layoffs."
Tisei again dismissed Tierney's claims that he is a right wing extremist, calling himself a pro-choice "Bill Weld Republican."
Stephanos discussed the attacks on family members we've seen in this race -- Tierney's in-laws involved in an illegal gambling operation and speculation that Tierney knew about it as well as Tisei's family having been involved in accusations of misleading clients in the 1980s and 1990s. Tisei dismissed the attacks on his family and once again said that Tierney was being dishonest about what he did or did not know about his in-laws' dealings.
Fishman, however, humorously said he felt left out.
"We have Mr. Tisei with a website attacking Congressman Tierney, and Congressman Tierney with a website attacking Mr. Tisei," Fishman said. "I had to put up a website attacking myself. And I have to say, those photos of me and Derek Jeter are Photoshopped."
You can find the full video of Thursday's debate on Fox 25 here.