By Jesse Roman
---- — SALEM — Sen. Fred Berry said yesterday that he believes Salem City Councilor Joan Lovely is the best choice to succeed him in the state Senate.
“I will cast my vote for Joan Lovely,” Berry said in a statement that was leaked to the press two days before planned.
“As an eight-term city councilor and longtime community leader, Joan knows what local communities need from the state government. She has demonstrated both compassion and political courage in dealing with tight municipal budgets and providing vital services to her community.”
There have been rumors in political circles the last few weeks that Berry was covertly supporting Lovely, but the senator had given no indication until yesterday that a public endorsement was coming.
“I’m somewhat interested, but I haven’t paid a lot of attention,” Berry told The Salem News last week. “They’re all pretty qualified.”
Even Lovely said she “had no clue” Berry’s endorsement was coming until she was informed by a reporter yesterday.
“I am absolutely thrilled, delighted and honored to have the support of someone whom I respect so much,” she said. “We have worked closely together for 15 years. I think we have very similar styles to how we approach things. ... We’re both bridge-builders, and we both work extremely hard.”
Lovely said Berry called her yesterday afternoon to give her his support.
Berry has represented the 2nd Essex District — made up of Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem and Topsfield — since being elected in 1982. His nod could give Lovely a boost in Thursday’s Democratic primary.
“Sen. Berry is a long-trusted and respected voice in the Senate, so I would expect his endorsement to have a pretty significant effect,” said Jason Silva, a Beverly city councilor and chief of staff for Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who has also endorsed Lovely.
Candidates John Slattery and Mary-Ellen Manning have, along with Lovely, gone out of their way to praise Berry and have pledged to work on the causes he supports.
Berry, however, seemed to go out of his way yesterday to point out why he was not endorsing either Slattery or Manning.
While not naming names, Berry said that either candidate “would have difficulty being effective for all of the people in this district.
“One candidate appears to have sold his soul to the unions,” Berry said, “ ... and the other candidate has a history of caring more about finding fault with others than working with others to find solutions to serious problems.”
In an interview last week, Berry gave no indication that he would make an endorsement, but did provide a window into his thoughts about his successor.
“The tent I played politics in is going to be changing. There will be new problems in the next three decades than what I went through in my three decades. It requires new skills,” Berry said then. “I hope they all go in with the attitude that they must be team players. The problems we face are way too big for just one or two minds.”
In his endorsement yesterday, Berry emphasized that he believes Lovely’s ability to work in a team swayed his decision.
“To be effective in the state Senate requires a combination of experience, intelligence and the ability to work with others to solve problems for the people you represent,” he said. “I believe City Councilor Joan Lovely has the attributes needed to most effectively serve the people of the 2nd Essex District.”