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Peabody's special election for state representative rapidly approaching

Posted by Terri Ogan  March 28, 2013 01:54 PM

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Peabody residents will hit the polls Tuesday for a special election to fill the vacant seat for state representative in the city's Twelfth Essex District, which comprises most of Peabody.

The seat has been vacant since Rep. Joyce Spiliotis (D-Peabody) died in late November after a battle with cancer. Spiliotis was in her fifth term.

Republican Leah Cole, Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne and Independent Dave Gravel will go head-to-head in the three-way race for the seat.

Cole, a licensed practitioner with no previous political experience, is primarily focusing on responsible spending, transparency in government and jobs in the Commonwealth.

“I want to work for you so that you can keep more of your money in your pocket and I want to stop the wasteful spending on Beacon Hill,” Cole said in a campaign video. “I believe in the common sense of my friends and neighbors and I don’t believe that we need Beacon Hill telling us how to run our lives.”

The youngest candidate has been backed by Republican Charlie Baker, who lost the race for Governor in 2010, and New Jobs for Massachusetts, a public policy advocate for new job growth in the private sector, among other local groups.

Cole beat Republican Greg Bunne in the primary election, 512-460.

Griffin Dunne, 55, has served on the Peabody School Committee for 10 years and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. She said her primary focus is constituent services and serving the people of Peabody.

"That will be the hallmark of my candidacy, being able to make sure that I’m taking care of the people of the Twelfth District," Griffin Dunne said. "My motto is putting people first and that is most important to me."

Griffin Dunne was recently endorsed by two organizations, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, and on March 20, the Peabody Democratic City Committee.

The Democrat also received support from the family of the late Rep. Joyce Spiliotis. Her husband, Richard Jarvis, has released a letter of endorsement on the candidate's behalf.

"Beverley Griffin Dunne's qualifications and her impressive resume of unselfish commitment to the residents of Peabody prove that her service to the Citizens of Peabody speaks louder than words," the letter said.

Griffin Dunne is also the co-chair of the Higgins School Building Committee and a liaison with North Shore Coalition on Funding, among other things.

The Democrat said she feels good going into Tuesday's election, but the weather has been difficult in the "tight race."

City Councillor David Gravel, 56, will be on the ballot as an Independent. Gravel served on the School Committee for eight years and was president of the Peabody Education Foundation as well.

With a background in finance, Gravel is the founder and CEO of GraVoc Associates, Inc., a technology consulting firm in Peabody.

Time, Gravel said, has been the biggest challenge in his campaign.

"Ten weeks when you think about it is not a long period of time for an election of this nature," Gravel said. "The most humbling part about being a candidate is seeing how much people will do on their behalf you only hope you’re worthy of their time and effort."

The Independent candidate, who has emphasized the critical importance of having a strong voice on Beacon Hill, has received endorsements from fellow city councilors, as well as Jackie Torigian, the wife of late Mayor Peter Torigian.

"Sometimes I don’t feel like I fit in the same league," Gravel said. "I’m thrilled with the people that have stepped up and asked to endorse me. It’s been overwhelming."

Peabody has 35,152 registered voters, 20,254 of which are unenrolled, while 11,591 are Democrat and 3,180 Republican.

In the Twelfth Essex District there are 26,730 registered voters; 9,216 of which are Democrat; 2,335 Republican and 15,064 are unenrolled. The remaining 115 residents are political designations.

Poll doors open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Terri Ogan can be reached at, or follow her on Twitter.

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