[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include campaign endorsements released for each candidate since this article was first published.]
The special election is now just a few days away and a number of endorsements have rolled in for the three candidates in the race for State Representative to fill the vacancy left by the death of Joyce Spiliotis in November.
City councilor Dave Gravel, who is running as an independent, has focused more on publicizing individual endorsements over the past couple weeks, which would appear to demonstrate a broad base of support across the city.
Those endorsements come from Peabody politicians -- fellow councilor Tom Gould, former councilors Fred Murtagh and Mary Waselchuk and former Mayor Michael Bonfanti -- and other well known locals, teachers and parents. That includes Jackie Torigian (wife of late Mayor Peter Torigian) Fernando Braz, retired police officer Steven Molk and Holden Oil owner Chuck Holden.
Jackie Torigian wrote a letter to voters in which she praised Gravel for having the skills for the job and noted she met Gravel when he worked together with her late husband to build a new YMCA in Peabody.
"Over the years, Dave has been a voice of reason on the City Council and School Committee and an important part of so many local efforts to make our city a better place," she wrote.
Gravel was a School Committee member when Bonfanti took office and then the two worked together again after Gravel joined the City Council in 2007 -- in both capacities, Bonfanti said, he found Gravel to be a leader, a hardworker, well prepared for any topic and always professional.
"Dave might not agree with you, but more importantly, he was willing to work with you, and I think as a state rep, that is going to be an essential attribute that people have to have," Bonfanti said. "Instead of not working together, come together and find solutions."
"We need people who understand the value of a dollar," Bonfanti added, saying that as a businessman Gravel is well accustomed to maintaining a budget and balancing needs with financial realities.
Gravel was also endorsed by the Salem News in an editorial on Friday, cited for his "measured, intelligent approach" to the issues. The editorial argued he had the right mix of public and private sector experience to effectively work for Peabody on Beacon Hill and partner with the local administration.
Beverley Griffin Dunne
Democrat and School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne has also announced a few endorsements as well -- the latest coming from Spiliotis' husband Dick Jarvis. Dunne has long been a close friend of the family and Jarvis has actively campaigned on Dunne's behalf in recent months.
"My wife...believed with all her heart that helping and serving the people she represented was an especially noble effort. She truly enjoyed serving and helping all of you, and felt it was honorable and rewarding work," Jarvis wrote in a letter released Thursday.
"Today's economic and political uncertainties call for the next State Representative to be committed to putting you and your interests first. With this in mind, the Spiliotis family believes that person is Beverley Griffin Dunne," he said.
Jarvis said Dunne has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to Peabody and its people in numerous acts of service, whether as a practicing attorney, school board member, nearly 20 years as a Scout Leader and Sunday School teacher, on school PTOs and councils or with the Peabody Relay for Life.
"These all are a few examples of her unselfish spirit of volunteerism and dedication to Peabody," Jarvis said. "[Her] 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."
Dunne was also endorsed by the Peabody Democratic City Committee on March 20 and by two unions representing nurses and correctional officers.
The local party committee, in an announcement, praised Dunne for having a "longstanding track record of fighting for the middle class families of Peabody." The endorsement came with a unanimous vote by the full committee.
“I will not bail on the city of Peabody or the Democratic Party. I am in this for the long haul,” Dunne told committee members after accepting the endorsement, according to the statement.
Donna Kelly-Williams, the president of the Mass. Nurses Association, said the MNA is backing Dunne as a strong advocate who will pursue legislation to ensure safe nurse staffing in hospitals and access to safe and quality healthcare.
The MNA represents more than 23,000 registered nurses and health professionals and is the third largest union of its kind in the country.
The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, which represents uniformed state and county employees, likewise endorsed Dunne for her "stance on advocating for safe staffing of correctional facilities and provision of appropriate training and equipment for all correction officers," according to an announcement.
The third candidate vying for the 12th Essex District seat, Leah Cole, just announced another endorsement, this time from fellow Republican Charlie Baker, who mounted an unsuccessful run for Governor in 2010. Cole was earlier endorsed by Citizens for Limited Taxation's 2-1/2 PAC.
“Leah has made a difference as a health care provider, and she is dedicated to putting people before politics,” said Baker. “She will work hard identifying solutions to some of Peabody’s most pressing economic issues.”
“I am excited to receive Charlie Baker's endorsement. Charlie is a leader that I greatly admire,” Cole said, praising his business experience and adding that she was grateful for his support, leading up to the general election.
On Friday, Cole's campaign announced that former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown had recorded a phone message in support of Cole, calling her the "true reformer" in the race, which was being sent to Peabody voters.
The message says Cole is "running to represent the people" and notes her pledges to oppose Gov. Deval Patrick's tax plan and not take a public pension or extra money to drive to work.
Former Democratic City Committee Vice Chairman Mark Titelbaum, who's also a former Library Trustee, has also publicly declared his support for Cole in a letter to the editor.
Cole is also being backed by a public policy advocate group for the private sector called New Jobs for Massachusetts.
Michael Hruby, the president of New Jobs, said in a press release there's "every reason to believe that Leah Cole will fight to reduce the legal barriers to job growth in Massachusetts... She cares about individuals who want work."
Hruby also says New Jobs conducted a survey of all the candidates and Cole's responses showed "she has the best understanding of how regulations, red tape, and high taxes suppress job growth."
He didn't elaborate on how the other candidates responded, but merely noted Cole's campaign positions on opposing tax hikes, supporting job creation, cutting waste in government and rolling back the sales tax.
For the record, Gravel says he never received any survey from New Jobs for Massachusetts.
One more endorsement on Friday for Cole came from the Mass. Fiscal Alliance, which is based in Wakefield.
A press release from MFA Executive Director Paul Craney criticizes Gravel for voting in favor of raising property taxes at the local level and notes he was endorsed by the Mass. Teachers Association. Craney also criticizes Dunne for accepting a city health insurance plan, which she is eligible for as an elected official.
Craney praised Cole as someone who would be an independent voice from powerful unions and an independent vote against Patrick's "flawed budget proposal." Craney did not address, however, the fact that Cole's campaign is largely financed by Republicans and GOP political organizations from across Massachusetts.