By Paul Leighton
BEVERLY — Democrat Jerry Parisella rode his hometown roots and nice-guy reputation to a resounding victory over Republican newcomer Brett Schetzsle yesterday in the race for state representative.
Parisella, a 47-year-old lawyer, swept all 12 of the city's precincts to win by more than 3,000 votes and earn a 60-40 margin of victory.
"Wow, what do I say?" Parisella remarked as a crowd of about 70 supporters at the Italian Community Center chanted, "Dominate, dominate." "I couldn't have done this without all of you."
Parisella staved off a determined challenge from Schetzsle, a 33-year-old marketing manager and Indiana native who moved to Beverly three years ago.
Schetzsle announced his candidacy more than a year ago and resigned his job at Gillette in August to devote full time to his campaign. He revived a near-dormant Beverly Republican City Committee, outspent Parisella and tweeted nearly 1,000 messages on his campaign website.
Ultimately, however, he was unable to overcome the hometown support of Parisella, who comes from a large extended family, works for a well-known Beverly law firm, and has volunteered for the YMCA, Kiwanis Club and various other civic groups.
"Realistically I knew it was an uphill fight against Jerry," Schetzsle said as he held one of his 11-month-old twin daughters, Elliot, at his campaign headquarters on Cabot Street.
"We fought that fight the right way. We ended up with 40 percent of the vote, and it's been a long time since a Republican has polled 40 percent of the vote here."
Parisella will succeed Mary Grant, the Democratic incumbent who opted not to run for re-election after eight years in office. Grant showed up at Parisella's victory party to congratulate him and to "bequeath" him two large signs advertising the annual ice cream social she has hosted as part of Beverly Homecoming.
"These are yours now," she said.
Schetzsle was hoping to capitalize on Scott Brown's Senate victory last January in which Beverly voters supported the Republican. Schetzsle said it was time for a "new voice" on Beacon Hill for the city, which has not had a Republican state representative in 20 years.
Earlier in the day at North Beverly School in Ward 5, John Monaco said he voted for Schetzsle because it was time for a change.
"We need some fresh blood across the board," said Monaco, a 36-year-old police officer at Harvard University. "Nothing against the other guy, but I'm sick of living in a one-party state."
But Parisella supporters said their candidate's reputation and hometown ties were a tough combination to beat.
"Jerry ran a great campaign. He stayed positive," Enrico Miranda said. "Even today he was walking the streets, going door to door. He was nonstop."
Miranda said he has known Parisella and his family since Miranda moved from Italy when he was 10 years old. It wasn't just name recognition that carried Parisella, he said, but reputation.
"If people don't like you, they won't vote for you," Miranda said. "People know what he's all about. He's an honest, trustworthy person."
Parisella's family support was on display last night when one of his three brothers, Jimmy, a musician, grabbed his guitar and sang a song he had written for the campaign.
As Jerry Parisella swayed to the music with his 6-year-old daughter, Sophia, resting on his shoulder, the crowd cheered such lines as, "Jerry Parisella, his reputation is stellar," and "Jerry Parisella, he is one talented fella."
Schetzsle called Parisella on his cell phone to congratulate him. The candidates were cordial and polite to each other in two debates, but the campaign had its negative moments.
Schetzsle accused Parisella of a possible conflict of interest for accepting campaign donations from a developer, and he sent out a campaign mailing saying Parisella would treat the state representative's job as a "$62,000 part-time gig."
Parisella criticized Schetzsle for saying he was on leave from Gillette when in fact he had resigned due to a company policy that prohibits employees from running for office.
More than an hour after the polls closed, Schetzsle stood holding his daughter in his campaign headquarters as about 20 supporters looked over the results and Beverly Republican City Chairman Andrew Channell highlighted Republican gains.
"We're proud of the campaign we ran," Schetzsle said. "We stuck to the issues. We gave people here a credible alternative for the first time in a very long time."
Schetzsle said he got more votes than Kerry Healey did in her first run for state representative in Beverly. Healey went on to become lieutenant governor and a candidate for governor.
Asked about his future in politics, Schetzsle said, "I'm not going anywhere. This is home for us."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.