Cole Edges Out Bunn in Republican Primary for State Rep
Leah Cole defeated fellow Republican Greg Bunn for the party's nomination by a narrow 52-vote margin Tuesday amid a very low turnout at the polls.
The first-time Republican candidates clashed at the polls and 24-year-old Leah Cole walked away the winner from Tuesday night's primary, defeating Greg Bunn by a mere 52 votes, 512-460.
According to City Clerk Tim Spanos, only about 6 percent of voters in the 12th Essex District hit the polls.
Now with the party nomination in hand, Cole moves on to a general special election April 2 against Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne and Dave Gravel, who is running as unenrolled.
|Beverley Griffin Dunne||606|
|VOTER TURNOUT||6%||1,659 of 27,377|
* includes blanks and write-ins
Cole celebrated her victory with roomful of supporters at Champions Pub Tuesday night.
"I'm just grateful to them [voters] that they gave me this opportunity to advance to the general election. I'm just looking forward to conserving the taxpayers' dollars and representing them," she said.
"You can never expect any outcome," said Cole, but added she "wasn't surprised by the numbers" and that her campaign did get out the voters they hoped for.
She told reporters she's been met with "excitement" on the campaign trail so far and has high hopes for next month's election, despite running against two well-known Peabody politicians.
"A lot of people were excited to see someone young running," she said -- a candidate who can bring "fresh ideas" and a "new outlook."
Cole believes her lack of political connections in Peabody can be an advantage. "Some people want someone who isn't politically connected; they just want a voice for the people," she said.
Cole said Tuesday's numbers were reflective of that.
As for her edge over Bunn, Cole didn't point to any political differences between the two and replied that she and her campaigners were constantly out knocking on doors, meeting voters and listening to their concerns.
At Champions, just as many of her donors aren't Peabodyites many of those celebrating Tuesday weren't locals either -- Andover Republican state Rep. Jim Lyons was among the crowd -- but Cole says she's not concerned at that.
"I think a lot of people are concerned with the tax hikes, people from all over the state... This is kind of an opportunity to get a fiscal conservative in there, " she said.
"I think enough people from Peabody were concerned today," said Cole.
"After the primary, it gets a little easier because you can get a lot more support from the Republican party and that will help get the message out," she added.
As for the general election, Cole says her campaign will have to ramp up its efforts, but everyone's willing to do the work and meet the voters. She says she "feels good" about reaching enough of those unenrolled voters in Peabody (there are 15,402 in the district) to swing things her way in April.
Over in a second-floor office on Walnut Street, Bunn and about 20 supporters received the sobering news Tuesday night.
Bunn told Peabody Patch he wasn't entirely surprised at the results given that Cole outspent him more than two-to-one. He said he ran a grassroots team and didn't seek out or receive any funds from political action committees or other outside financing, as Cole had.
"If voter turnout was a little better or if this was a regular election, I had absolutely thought we would have won this race," Bunn said, but still gave Cole credit for "working hard" and getting her message out to voters.
He said he knocked on 700 doors over the past two months and met "some great people, Democrats and Republicans." "The only day I didn't knock on doors, I think, was the day the governor declared the driving ban."
"People are apathetic about politics, that's what disappoints me tonight more than anything. I ran this race to try to put a better face on the Republican brand, try to build it back up. I hope that maybe even if I moved that one degree in the right direction that's a good thing," Bunn said.
Many of his supporters, including School Committee member Jarrod Hochman, told Bunn they hope to see him run again in the near future, possibly for City Council.
"If I have my way, we're going to see Greg Bunn's name again on a ballot in 2013," Hochman said.
Bunn said he'll be mulling over that possibility, but it's too soon to commit to another run now. "I think we laid the groundwork for a really good general election. I'm going to digest that," he said.
Spanos, commenting on the turnout, said he attributes it to a few factors: the weather, the odd date for an election and lack of an interest in a Democratic-leaning community, which he believes still just thought it was a Republican race.
On top of of all that: "There are people who don't usually vote in primaries," he said.
Dunne was also on the ballot Tuesday, unopposed, and actually earned more votes than either Cole or Bunn, which wasn't surprising given the School Committee member's deep roots in her hometown.
She said she was "feeling pretty good" about Tuesday's results and had not expected a strong turnout at the polls. "I'll be honest, I was surprised the turnout was that low," she admitted.
Dunne said her campaign efforts for the next month will just carry on from here, continuing to meet as many voters as possible, spreading her campaign message.
She also said she's not disheartened at Gravel's fundraising edge so far -- the two are veterans when it comes to local elections, but Gravel has raised about twice as much as Dunne.
"The people that support me have a lot of heart," Dunne said, adding that going door-to-door and getting her message out with that personal touch is "constituent service at its finest."
"You don't need money to do that," she said.
[Check out the attached PDF for the precinct-by-precinct results and total votes overall.]