By Jesse Roman
PEABODY — Democratic state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis earned a fifth term on Beacon Hill last night after Peabody voters turned out in large numbers to support her at the polls.
Spiliotis received 57 percent of the vote to best Republican challenger Martin Scafidi in the race to represent the 12th Essex District, which includes all but one of Peabody's six wards. Just over 57.5 percent of the 34,504 registered voters in Peabody cast ballots.
"I just want to thank all the people in Peabody who supported me, not just this year but every year," Spiliotis said from her campaign-night headquarters at the Knights of Columbus shortly after the election results were in. "I promise to always be there for them and to always work hard for them."
Her supporters were quick to echo that sentiment.
Joe Denish spent most of the day holding signs for Spiliotis outside of polling places. He said he supported Spiliotis because of "her honest integrity, generosity and overall genuine feelings towards constituents in the neighborhood."
Spiliotis, 63, was first elected in 2003 to represent the 12th district; before that she served nearly a decade on the Peabody City Council. She is a lifelong Peabody resident, and has described herself as a "moderate" who has an independent streak and doesn't always vote down the party line.
She said "jobs and the economy, of course, and trying to keep taxes low" will be her focus during her next term. "And issues pertaining to health care and education. I think those are very important."
Scafidi, 64, is a certified public accountant with his own firm in Peabody. He was upbeat after the returns last night, despite finishing second.
"For the first time out, and for not being known, I think we did very well," Scafidi said. "I met a lot of nice people, and I'm looking forward to doing this again in two years."
Throughout the campaign, Scafidi has railed against high taxes, the state budget deficit and bloated public employee pensions.
"I just hope some of these things (raised in the campaign) will be addressed," Scafidi said. "We made (Spiliotis) work harder this time (to win re-election) and I hope that will make her make some changes. I hope she will become more of the independent voice she says she is."
Scafidi's message seemed to resonate with Tony Vidinha, 46, who volunteered to hold a Scafidi sign outside the Walsh Avenue polling place yeserday afternoon.
"We need some change in Massachusetts, with the way things are," he said. "I think we need an experienced guy to do the job right. I'm getting sick and tired of the Democrats."
Mary Collins, however, was glowing when she came out of the polling booth yesterday afternoon after casting her vote for Spiliotis.
"I think she's wonderful," she said, adding that she considers Spiliotis a "longtime friend." Collins said she doesn't follow politics closely, but knows Spiliotis and trusts her character.
Scafidi, just an hour after losing the race, made strong hints that he'll be back to challenge Spiliotis again in 2012.
"I'm going to take some time and consider it," he said. "My supporters felt like we made a good showing and they're encouraging me to run again. If they'll be willing to support me, I'll be willing to try again."