Successful write-in campaign by Danvers selectman sets up rematch of 2010 state representative election
Danvers Republican Daniel C. Bennett received enough write-in votes in Thursday's primary to get his name on the November ballot for state representative in the 13th Essex District.
Bennett, currently serving his second term on the Danvers Board of Selectman, will attempt to unseat Representative Ted Speliotis, a Democrat. Speliotis, also of Danvers, has represented the district since 1997 in his second stint on Beacon Hill after serving from 1979 to 1986.
"Really my supporters came out in force, I had a good showing," Bennett said in a phone interview on Friday.
Bennett lost the 2010 election to Speliotis by less than 500 votes, but when most legislative candidates began campaigning last year, he said he simply had too much on his plate to make another run. At the time, he was serving as chairman of the Board of Selectmen and had recently been elected lieutenant governor of the New England District of Kiwanis, overseeing 10 clubs and more than 360 members.
"I didn't have the time to put the effort in," Bennett said.
In the last three weeks, Bennett said Republican Tea-Party activists began approaching him asking why he was not running, and expressed interest in starting a write-in campaign. Diane Langlais, a member of the Finance Committee in Danvers, jumped on board as Bennett's campaign manager two weeks ago.
Bennett needed 150 votes throughout the district - which is made up of Danvers, as well as precincts in West Peabody and Middleton - to get on the primary ballot.
He acknowledged the difficulty of a write-in campaign, including how procedural mistakes on the part of voters can derail it, but said he was confident he would get the votes needed. He received 217 in Danvers alone.
To Speliotis, who received 2,164 votes unopposed in the Democratic primary, it came as a bit of a surprise.
"I've been in government a long time, and have never seen anyone do this before really, I mean not in my area," Speliotis said. "It's not unheard of, but it's very unusual."
Speliotis attributes his near-loss in the bid for re-election two years ago to a unique situation in which Bay State voters were dissatisfied with Democrats overall - a sentiment Speliotis says is not as strong now.
Even though Bennett came closer than anyone in the last 15 years to ousting him, Speliotis sees an opponent of any kind as a "mixed blessing."
"It gives me a greater opportunity to promote my record," Speliotis said. "It's great to be unopposed, but sometimes it's frustrating when you've had good things happen not to be able to let people know that well. In [two-person] campaigns people really pay attention...it's a great opportunity to tell the folks what you've been doing the last two years and have them focus in a little bit more."
According to Bennett, his next step before officially getting on the November ballot is to file an ethics and financial statement through the Office of Political Campaign Finance and report to the Secretary of State with certification by September 19.
"I'm going forward with that, there's no doubt about it," Bennett said. "I just need to execute."
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.