SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 18, 2013

Griffin Dunne earns support of local Dems

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — The Democratic City Committee is expected to endorse school board member and Democrat Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne at its gathering this week, according to Chairman Mike Schulze.

The committee will meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the AOH on Lowell Street.

Though unopposed, Griffin Dunne won the March 5 Democratic primary with more votes than either of the two Republican candidates got in their primary.

“Democrats stand together,” said Griffin Dunne, a member of the School Committee.

How closely they stand together might be a key to this race, affecting all three candidates, including the unenrolled City Councilor Dave Gravel and Republican Leah Cole, a nurse and political novice.

Gravel, a former Democrat, has said he will caucus with the Democrats on Beacon Hill if successful. That likely means, for example, that he will support the Democrat choice for speaker of the house.

Cole is hoping that Griffin Dunne and Gravel split the Democratic vote, leaving her enough support to win and add to the GOP’s minority in the Legislature.

More than half of Peabody’s voters are unenrolled, lending some uncertainty to the election. On the other hand, in a special election affecting only a portion of the city, political organization is expected to play a large role.

Promising to represent the entire electorate, Griffin Dunne is clearly buoyed by party support.

“The Democratic Party in Peabody is strong, and people recognize that I’m a strong candidate and a good Democrat.”

She adds that the endorsement of local Democrats gives her access to a lot of support from party leaders on Beacon Hill.

Those ties, she continues, will also be useful in gaining aid for Peabody if she should take the seat, which was opened by the death of Rep. Joyce Spiliotis last November.

Gravel downplays the significance of the endorsement.

“The message I’ve heard is that people are voting for the person,” he said. Merely having the designation “D” won’t be enough.

It’s Gravel’s ability to draw both Democrats and unenrolled voters who often vote Democrat to his cause that will make or break his effort in the April 2 special election.

Meanwhile, Republican Cole has drawn a lot of out-of-town support precisely because the GOP statewide sees a possibility of a Democratic split, leaving a pathway for Republicans in a city that has supported some of its statewide candidates in the past.

Schulze believes this endorsement business isn’t all as simple as it sounds.

Some Democratic City Committee members might want to vote for Gravel but just can’t say so. Schulze explains that a member of the committee “must come out and support a Democrat.” He means a real Democrat, still registered as such, with a D after their name.

Failure to do so can cause banishment and people “to get all over me,” he said.

Asked if that means he plans to actually vote for Griffin Dunne, Schulze declines to give the simple answer.

“As a Democrat, I always support the Democrat,” he said.

Cole could not be reached for comment.