Eagle Tribune: Challengers eye Democratic nomination

Moulton, DeFranco gear up for Tierney fight


SALEM — Richard Tisei might be a formidable opponent, but he isn’t the only candidate for the 6th District seat that Congressman John Tierney has to worry about this year.

Seth Moulton of Salem and Marisa DeFranco of Middleton hope to knock the nine-term congressman out of the race by securing the Democratic nomination at September’s primary.

The question is, how do you beat an entrenched candidate like Tierney?

“You win it by earning the trust of the voters you represent,” Moulton said.

With the primary nine months off, both candidates have begun adding texture to their campaigns and elaborating on their stances and what they’d bring to the office they seek.

Moulton was born in Salem and grew up in Marblehead, the son of a real estate lawyer and a secretary at Massachusetts General Hospital. After high school, he attended Harvard College, then joined the Marines and ended up serving four tours in Iraq over five years.

Among other highlights of his military service, Moulton was in the first company to enter Baghdad in the 2003 invasion and served as a special assistant to Lt. Gen. David Patraeus.

When he got back to the states, Moulton earned two more degrees from Harvard, then spent a year in Texas managing a company that sought to build a 240-mile high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston. After returning to Salem, he served on the YMCA’s board.

Moulton, who is running for public office for the first time, referred to his campaign team as “the best team in Democratic politics this year.” It includes Mark Mellman, a pollster who has worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Joe Trippi, who previously ran Howard Dean’s campaign for president; and Scott Ferson, a former press secretary of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

“I think I’m the strongest Democrat in this race,” Moulton said. “When people see the energy and enthusiasm in our team, it’s representative of the desire for change in the district.”

Moulton said that his campaign will gain momentum as summer approaches and that a key part of his strategy is attending regional caucuses to network with Democratic activists. Recruiting volunteers to perform a variety of functions is also a priority right now.

“That’s what you have to do; you have to pound the pavement,” he said.

Noting that Tierney narrowly beat Tisei in the 2012 election, Moulton said it was important he get the nomination so Democrats had a shot at keeping the seat.

“I think we need a much stronger Democrat,” he said. “The fact of the matter is he only won the last election by less than 1 percent ... he should’ve won by a lot more.”

Although Moulton said he and Tierney were “similar on the issues,” he said there were two “big differences” between them.

“I want to go to Washington to actually get things done,” he said. “The second big difference is I’m going to win the general election against Richard Tisei.”

Moulton pointed to his campaign’s financial standing as evidence he will be a successful candidate. During the last quarter of 2013, he raised $253,070, as opposed to Tierney’s $228,408.

“There’s too much money in politics these days, but it’s, nonetheless, absolutely critical,” Moulton said.

He added that 98 percent of his donations were from individual donors and said half of Tierney’s came from political action committees.

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