DANVERS — Despite anti-incumbent sentiment and opposition from most of this town's Board of Selectmen, Democratic state Rep. Ted Speliotis last night fended off a strong challenge from Danvers Selectman Dan Bennett.
It was a hard-fought but respectful race to represent the 13th Essex District on Beacon Hill.
As a sign of that respect, Bennett went to the Polish Club on Cheever Street in Danvers where Speliotis held his victory party to shake the hand of the 57-year-old full-time legislator whom he nearly beat.
Bennett conceded after learning of his defeat by fewer than 500 votes at his home on Page Street, where he was surrounded by supporters and family.
"It was a good campaign," Bennett said. "Everything went well, everybody did a nice job, I had a lot of great volunteers, but in the end it was not enough to pull it off."
A jubilant Speliotis stood next to his wife of 30 years, June, as he gave his victory speech before a packed room.
"I want to thank everybody here more than any time I've ever thanked anybody, because I know it wasn't easy," Speliotis said.
"We thank you for working for your constituents," chimed in supporter Fran Weil of Danvers.
Speliotis' unofficial, razor-thin, 494-vote margin represented less than 3 percent of the nearly 17,000 votes cast for each candidate in the district. The tally was 8,740 for Speliotis and 8,246 for Bennett.
"In a very weird way, every election is very special, they are all different," said Speliotis, accepting his win and his eighth term.
Speliotis said he won despite a majority of Danvers selectmen backing Bennett. Danvers represents about 75 percent of his district.
Speliotis, a Peabody native and 1971 graduate of Danvers High and former Danvers Town Moderator, said he had a lot to overcome because of that.