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Who Won Last Night's Debate: Dunne, Cole or Gravel?

Who did you think shined the most in Wednesday night's debate between the candidates for State Representative in the 12th Essex District?

[Editor's Note: The article has been updated to reflect a correction on one of the panelists' names.]

The three candidates for State Representative in Peabody traded a few jabs Wednesday night in a debate at City Hall sponsored by the Salem News and the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce.

In particular, the debate became more heated when the subject of campaign finances came up.

Republican Leah Cole turned her answer to a question into another question to Dave Gravel, who is unenrolled, asking how he could say he's reticent to raise taxes when he's politically supported by the Mass. Teachers Association, a big proponent of the governor's spending plan.

Gravel retorted that he's the first non-Democrat to be endorsed by the union and that the support was entirely based on his record on education. And unlike Cole, he said, all his campaign money comes from Peabody, not Marlborough.

In her closing remarks, Cole then again spoke to the fact that most of her financial support comes from all over the state, not Peabody.

She said a lot of people across the state are concerned about their taxes possibly going up and are excited about someone who is going to stand up for them. Cole said their money helped her spread her message in Peabody, where she didn't have the connections of her more well-established opponents.

Cole, Gravel and Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne spent much time early in the debate on welfare reform and EBT cards. In the end, they all essentially agreed reform was necessary to prevent fraud and abuse of the system.

The difference was that Cole adamantly argued that abuse was rampant throughout the system, whereas Dunne and Gravel said the vast majority of people receiving benefits were doing so legitimately.

"My 17-year-old knows more than she does," said Mary Lou Geiger of Leah Cole.

Geiger, who's supporting Dunne, attended the debate and said she wasn't impressed with Cole's performance. Further, she worried that enough voters would split between Dunne and Gravel to allow Cole to sneak into the seat.

The questions posed by the panel -- Billy Woods, Michelle Talisman and DECA's Austin Solimine -- covered local aid, the state budget, taxes, campaign finances, welfare benefits, senior services, education, jobs, small business growth, affordable housing, flooding and even domestic use of military drones.

The debate was broadcast live on cable by Peabody Access Telecommunications and also streamed online. Patch readers also participate in a live chat during the hourlong debate and you can find that transcript here.

So what did you think? Were you at City Hall or did you watch from home? Who do you think won the debate? Tell us why and some of your favorite moments.

Bruce Atkins March 28, 2013 at 12:49 PM
I thought Mr. Gravel won hands down. Seemed more informed about the issues right out of the gate. Dunne had to think so long before answerikkng questions I wondered if she was going to "pass" on the question. She also lost points for whining about the ad sent out yesterday by the Mass GOP. Refferring to her and Gravel as "Peas in a Pod" with the governor was not negative as she whined and wimpered about. I thought it was creative. It also highlighted the fact she opted to take the city's healthcare rather than private when she is an attorney and her husband an employee of the federal government. Leah Cole should have stayed home. she did herself a huge dis-service by publicly showing her inexperience and refusing to expand or take any 30 second rebuttals. I wasn't sure who I was voting for - I was leaning towards Cole. But my vote is now going to Gravel.
Bruce Atkins March 28, 2013 at 12:53 PM
One more point - it was very disturbing to hear Dunne and Gravel say they thought only 5% were abusing welfare or EBT cards - they are so out of touch. Even the State released the millions of dollars that has been found to have been fraudently obtained via welfare and EBT cards.
Denise Hitchman March 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Beverley has my vote, hands down. Her answers were well thought out and made sense to me. My vote to Dunne!
David MacDonald March 28, 2013 at 01:17 PM
I thought they all handled themselves pretty well, Sometimes I was wondering if it was Sarah Palin or Leah Cole, Mr. Gravel seems to ride any popular opinion, but still intends to vote the Democratic party line though listed as an unenrolled or independant or something, that creates a question of trustworthiness. Mrs. Dunne is trustworthy, responsible, and reliable. Her 10 years on the school committee, she is always prepared and I believe has only missed a few meetings, I don't have exact figures, but she is always there, asks relevant questions, and is accessible. Maybe someone can find how many meetings she has missed in 10 years, I bet its not more than a handful. I think Mrs. Dunne will do the best job for Peabody, she will be the first state or federal Democratic candidate that I have ever voted for.
fran gallugi March 28, 2013 at 01:55 PM
In the final analysis of the whole debate, there is no question, the win goes to Dave Gravel, vote the person, not the party
PACC - Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce March 28, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Correction: Student from PVMHS was Austin Solimine.
Patriots Fan March 28, 2013 at 02:05 PM
I was originally going to vote for Dunne because I lean to the left but after watching the debate I have changed my vote to Gravel. To me, he appears to be the most qualified and prepared for such a position. Cole is a beautiful young lady who has a very bright future, just not in politics, yet anyways.
John Castelluccio (Editor) March 28, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Sorry about that. A correction has been made.
Stephen Raymond March 28, 2013 at 02:52 PM
In February 2013 the Herald reported 1 in 10 families on transitional assistance can't even be located by the State. Does everyone forget that?? Thats 10% fraud and I'm no math major. Welfare Chief Curley resigned immediately in disgrace. If you can't even find people, if you can't even measure it, then how can you say its minor or 5% or even put any number on it. The system needs to be audited top to bottom. BUT when you get elected by the very people who receive the handout $$$$ its political suicide to rock that boat. http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/01/welfare_boss_resigns_wake_report
Sharon L. Kokoras March 28, 2013 at 04:14 PM
The people of Ward six have a FANTASTIC man representing us on Beacon Hill. I think David Gravel will do the same for the other wards in the City - VOTE FOR GRAVEL .....the rest of Peabody deserves what Ward Six has had for many years...... Sharon L. Kokoras, former Ward Six Councillor
DEBBIE March 28, 2013 at 05:14 PM
HMMMM I THOUGHT IT WAS hundreds of millions. So much for those that worked all their lives and will be working until they drop. The buck stops at the top and it starts right in Washington, DC. They are the first gang of thieves that steal our money.
DEBBIE March 28, 2013 at 05:22 PM
I disagree. He split Ward five in half. He should of gone the sensible route and taken ward 5 precinct 3 to represent on Beacon Hill and NOT ward 5 precinct 2. Precinct 3 is the closest area-wise to ward 6. What is even worse, he split Bourbon Street right down the middle. Disgusting!!!!!!!
Saber Walsh March 28, 2013 at 05:28 PM
I like David Gravel a LOT. But it seems he made a strategic decision to avoid the Democratic primary by joining us "unenrolled" folks -- being a "pea in a pod" with a socialist means you really were faking the unenrolled thing, and we're really not that stupid. But his record is good which helps. So I'd like to see Gravel get it, and I'd like to see Cole stick around and show us her capacity by taking the seat of one of our longstanding worthless pieces of flotsam who I think have had their day.
DEBBIE March 28, 2013 at 05:29 PM
We have three good candidates and I wish them all well and good luck. I know Dave and Beverly and they are nice people from good families. As a matter of fact, those two grew up only a few streets from one another. I do not know Leah but if she is a nurse, then she must be a caring person, and by the way, her clothing is beautiful and hair is always styled lovely. She appears impeccable. Well, all we can do is sit and wait and see who prevails.
Ted Lempner March 28, 2013 at 08:19 PM
Gravel won hands down. Dunne was ok, she lost me a bit with the fear mongering regarding Drones. Cole was really weak. She showed how inexperienced and ill prepared she was. The constant non rebuttals made her seem like a gimmick.
Ralph Reid March 28, 2013 at 09:21 PM
I was at the debate Wednesday evening and found it very informative. After the closing statements I understood where the canditates stood. Leah is on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Beverly and Dave. I think Dave was better prepared on most of the issues and answered the questions very clearly. I have followed Dave in both his public and private lives. He is a person that tackles problems head on and I have never seen him give up or pass the buck to anyone else. He is a true asset to the citizens of Peabody and I have no doubt that he will continue in all his future endeavors. A vote for Dave Gravel will be a vote for Peabody's future.
Mike Depalo March 29, 2013 at 12:43 AM
I will vote for Cole; I do not think that she will win but I don't like the fact that someone would call them self an independant and if they win they will be a democrat. What is up with that? It sounds like something that Patrick would say and I can't stand him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is a two face no good.
Steve R. March 29, 2013 at 03:04 AM
There are good people in this race, but we need strong representation in the statehouse. Look at the qualifications and the experience, not the letter after the candidate's name and clearly one person stands out above the others. That person is Dave Gravel. Last night's debate makes Tuesday's vote so much easier.
Dexter McManus March 29, 2013 at 03:37 AM
Because hair, make-up and personal appearance are the qualities you look for in a representative?
T. Murphy March 29, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Great question by PVMHS student Austin Solimine on the use of future Drone use in America. Didn't care for the response by Gravel, "didn't know I was running for Congress."

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