BOSTON (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. John Tierney and his Republican challenger Richard Tisei butted heads on health care, gun control and the controversy surrounding the illegal gambling business operated by Tierney’s brothers-in-law in a feisty televised debate.

The two candidates in Massachusetts 6th Congressional District tossed charges and countercharges in the 25-minute match Thursday on NECN.

Tisei called for a congressional investigation into the gambling controversy, while Tierney said a judge said he wasn’t involved. Tierney called Tisei “shameful” for television ads that raised the controversy involving Tierney’s family.

Tierney’s wife, Patrice, was sentenced to 30 days in prison last year after pleading guilty to helping file false tax returns for her brother Robert Eremian, a fugitive from justice. Another brother, Daniel Eremian, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his role in the offshore gambling ring, which operated from Antigua.

Tierney has denied knowing about the illegal nature of the business, but Tisei said voters deserve more information.

“I do think that there should be a congressional investigation,” Tisei said.

Tierney shot back, saying Tisei has “lied and used insinuation and innuendo” and that his wife has “paid a terrible price.”

“Your naked ambition, political ambition, has let you take her and do this to her because you want a seat that you otherwise couldn’t get,” Tierney said.

The two also split on the 2010 health care law signed by President Barack Obama.

Tisei said he supported the 2006 Massachusetts law that provided the blueprint for Obama, but opposes the federal law because it includes broad-based tax increases. Tierney supports the law.

Tisei also said that while he wouldn’t vote for the budget proposal offered by Romney running mate Paul Ryan, he credited Ryan for trying to tackle tough issues and get the national debt under control.

“I said it’s a good start,” Tisei said.

Tierney said that while Tisei, who supports abortion rights and gay marriage, may describe himself as a moderate, he will end up voting for a conservative Republican leadership in the House.

“He has said the tea party is a godsend,” Tierney said.

The two also split on taxes, with Tierney saying Tisei would hold tax cuts for the majority of Americans hostage to cuts for the wealthy, and Tisei saying he opposed raising taxes on anyone while the economy is stilling struggling.

Tisei also sought to break away from the national Republican party on other issues.

He said he would have voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill Obama signed as president. The act requires employers prove that differences in pay are related to qualifications, not to gender.

Tisei said he employs women in his real estate office and thinks “every business should treat everybody fairly.”

The two found some agreement on other issues.

Both said they would support reauthorization of a federal assault weapons ban and both backed restrictions on high capacity ammunition clips.

Tierney and Tisei also agreed on two controversial Massachusetts ballot questions.

Both said they back a question that would allow for the medical use of marijuana.

On another question that would allow terminally ill adults to self-administer life-ending drugs, Tisei said he would vote for the measure while Tierney said he leans toward supporting it.

The two disagreed, however, on the whether voters should have to present an ID at the polls.

Tierney said the current system in Massachusetts, which doesn’t require photo IDs, is fine while Tisei said IDs are required to enter some office buildings and board airplanes so it’s not unreasonable to require them for voting.

Republicans see the race as their best chance to pick up a House seat in Massachusetts.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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