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Flurry of Endorsements Coming in Final Days of Peabody State Rep Race

A number of prominent local politicians and other political party figures are throwing their support behind the candidates in the three-way race for State Representative.

[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.

Dave Gravel

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.

Leah Cole

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.

Mike Schulze March 29, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Do not forget to leave out that Leah Cole also has the endorsement of The Independence Tea Party of Danvers and the Northeast Shooters as a LTC person and supporter of 2A. and the Barbara Anderson and the CLT. There is all the support from Citizens around the State and Country who support her anti tax history!
bruce Caissie March 29, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Wish there was a video of the debate that was streamed the other night.
Saber Walsh March 30, 2013 at 02:00 AM
Well, having the MNA behind ANYONE is a deal-breaker for me. And Jarvis, while my heart goes out to him, was a "Peabody Citizens for a Better Government" ringleader. But Joyce will be hard to replace. Sadly, after reading about the latest abuse of Federal powers (the "Granite State Future" program that's unraveling in New Hampshire -- if you don't know about it, you should Google it!), I just can't vote for the person I really like and trust the most. The current configuration of the Democratic party is unbelievably un-democratic to me, and while Dave Gravel is just one of the best people you will ever meet, he's a Democrat (even though he said he's unenrolled) and has union support (which means, well, he's a Democrat). As a non-Republican (I find their platforms to be non-representative of my views, but at least they aren't trying to violate every Constitutional Amendment we have), there's just no way my vote will ever go back to ANYBODY affiliated with that party until it frees itself of the New Bolsheviks. We can laugh and point fingers at the Tea Party, but they self-destructed (I think) because they were a strange mix of conservatives and libertarians, who usually doesn't mix well. But they aren't after your land, your money, your freedom, or the safety of you and your family while lying to your face. So I hope Leah gets it, and I pray if she does, that she can represent us the way that Joyce did: with a centrist view towards all issues.

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