Richard Tisei and one theme was prevailant throughout -- Tisei says if elected he will be an independent voice in Congress.
Tisei, of Wakefield, is seeking the Sixth Congressional District seat in Congress currently held by U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem. Hamilton and Wenham are both in the Sixth District.
He cited his experience as a Republican in a heavily-Democratic legislature and having to work with the other side to get things done. A couple readers expressed concern about whether that can translate to a seat in Congress, which seems to be more polarized than it's ever been.
Here are some of the highlights from the chat.
Comment From Peter J. Solomon 3: As a former constituent of yours, I view you as having been a pretty independent minded state senator. If elected, can we count on you to be as independent minded in congress as you were in the state senate?
Richard Tisei: You are right, Peter. I do have a long track record of being very independent minded. I make one promise to the voters - to put their interests first and foremost, all the time. No one is right 99% of the time, but my opponent - John Tierney - votes with his leadership 99% of the time. I think that's way out there and is wrong. Voting as he does hurts the district. Just yesterday, John Tierney voted against the medical device tax which hurts jobs in our communities. What was he thinking? I'm not sure! But he sure wasn't listening to the businesses and employees here. That's why we need an independent Congressman, Peter.
Comment From Erin: I support the national 'anti-tax pledge', but Richard has said he doesn't support it and won't sign it. Why not? And why should I support someone who won't pledge to not raise taxes??
Richard Tisei: Hi Erin. I understand your concern, but let me assure you that I have a long record that you can look to for reassurance. In 26 years, I never voted for a broad-based tax increase. And I led the fight against sales tax increases on the state level. I believe that spending is the problem. I do believe that there may be loopholes that we should look at that have resulted from good lobbying rather than good policies. Any money generated from the closure of a loophole MUST go to paying down the national debt. Just weeks ago, my opponent, John Tierney, voted for more than $4 TRILLION in new taxes. Yesterday, he voted (again) to tax medical device makers. So, you know where I stand - and you sure know where John Tierney stands!
Comment From Guest: You've stated that you won't raise taxes. George Bush Sr. said the same thing. So, what cuts are you going to make to social programs to begin paying down the debt? Please don't tell me "fraud and waste." That won't add up and frankly it's a tired Republican line.
Richard Tisei: I have a track record of fighting against tax increases AND keeping spending within sensible limits. We have to start looking at measures that will protect truly needy recipients of some of the very expensive federal programs (such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security). There is significant abuse in some of these programs that we need to look at. The President's own Commission (Simpson-Bowles) recommended very small adjustments way down the road (primarily) that would begin to put spending on the right track. Senators Coon and Rubio, similarly, have come up with proposals which would begin putting our fiscal house in order. We can do it - but not with politicians hurling names at each other and refusing to speak to each other. I'll be firm in the principles that have guided me - and we simply must take steps now to get our fiscal house in order.
Comment From Kevin Franck: Mr. Tisei - You are the hand-picked candidate of the National Republican Party. You're campaign is being supported by the National Republican Congressional Committee and Log Cabin Republicans and you're being coached by Speaker Boehner, Rep, Paul Ryan and others. Why would the National Republican Party be so interested in helping you if they weren't sure you would support their extreme agenda in Washington?
Richard Tisei: Well, hello Kevin! I worry that you've made you're mind up already, but let me try to answer your question anyway. My record proves that I side with the people and not with parties. And I've been doing this long enough, that I sure don't need any coaching. My mother might have hand-picked me, btw....but you'd have to ask her.
Comment From Paul: I'm asking this question on my grandmothers behalf. Shes a 73 year old has voted democrat her entire life. I am concerned about the country her grandchildren are going to live in and is hesitant to vote for a Republican. Tell me why she should vote for you.
Richard Tisei: Hi Paul. I've represented Democrats for most of my career and they seemed pretty comfortable with me. Same with Independents and Republicans. People are pretty sensible, regardless of party, and they got to know me and that I was working hard for them. If your grandmother is concerned about the future that you'll face and your kids may face (and I'm sure that she is), then I hope that she'll take a look at me. We've got to solve our problems and begin it now. I'd love to meet her -
Comment From Guest: Hello Mr. Tisei, If elected to Congress, what do you plan to do to help small business owners like me who are struggling to keep our doors open?
Richard Tisei: Hello - 3 things. 1 - keep taxes as low as possible. 2 - prevent unnecessary government interference / regulations that harm small businesses (and bind them up in useless mountains of paperwork). 3 - create a predictable climate for small businesses so that people like you (who create jobs!) can grow and expand. We've got to get back to a growth mentality in this country and stop this senseless holding back of our entrepreneurial class. Thanks for the work you do - keep it up!
Comment From John: How would you have voted on the Ryan Budget?
Richard Tisei: Thanks, John. As I've said, both the Ryan Budget and Simpson-Bowles were good starting points for conversation. If John Tierney proposed a sensible budget tomorrow, I'd be happy to look at it. Too many people condemn budgets merely because the sponsors have an "R" or a "D" next to their names. That's the problem. With the Ryan Budget, btw, I have real concerns about the block-granting of Medicaid to the states because of cost-shifting to the states (I know that issue well from my experience as a state senator!). The point is...we hire a Congressman to find solutions. John Tierney isn't doing that. I will.
Comment From Olaf Faeskorn, Swampscott: Mr. Tisei, Healthcare is one of the key industries in Massachusetts and has been one of the sectors that saw employment growth and lots and lots of innovation. How do you feel about attempts at the state and federal level to "control cost" with far reaching regulations, taxes and interference with the relationship between payers, providers, suppliers - and most importantly, the patients and their families? Specifically, how effective or harmful do you believe the new device tax would be?
Richard Tisei: Thanks, Olaf. The new 2.3% medical device tax is very harmful. I addressed this earlier, so I'll skip to the other part of your question. My first priority in this area is to ensure the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and that the federal government is staying out of the way of that as much as is possible. With regard to cost controls, that's a huge problem. Free market solutions (portability of health care, insurance sales across state lines, providing consumers with as much choice as possible, and tort reform) - this is the direction we must go. Thanks, Olaf.
Comment From Raphael: I am a recent college graduate and am buried in debt. Even though i am over-qualified for many jobs, i still cant find work. If elected, what are you going to do to help me eliminate my student loan debt?
Richard Tisei: Hi Raphael! Great question and I'm hearing this same concern a lot. The best thing that we can do for you is to get the economy jump-started in creating jobs again. There are many other problems with the costs of higher education and we need to deal with them. But you need to have hope that if you're willing to work hard and go to work, there will be jobs our there for you. We have millions of people in America who are unemployed and underemployed. That's unacceptable. And you know, that doesn't even count recent college grads - so the statistics are probably much worse. Help me so that I can help you - get this economy back on track!
We will be sending Mr. Tisei the questions we weren't able to get to during the chat. Thank you to everyone for participating!