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March 20, 2013

Gravel: 'My job is to do what's best for Peabody'

Editor’s note: The following is the first in a series of articles profiling Peabody’s state representative candidates.

PEABODY — It was by chance that Dave Gravel found himself running for state representative without a party. A Democrat, he had only recently declared himself unenrolled when Rep. Joyce Spiliotis died unexpectedly in November, resulting in a special election.

That’s why the April 2 special election is a three-way race between Gravel, Democrat Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne and Republican Leah Cole.

Gravel, 56, insists that dissatisfaction with the party was not behind his decision to leave it.

“I was on the City Council. The City Council is nonpartisan. I didn’t need that designation. I didn’t want it to get in the way of anything.” He can’t remember voting for a Republican in recent years and adds that he will not only caucus with the Democrats if elected — “You have to caucus with someone,” he says — he will re-register as a Democrat.

Of course, being a Beacon Hill Democrat brings other questions.

Asked about the lamentable streak of three consecutive Democrat speakers of the Massachusetts House convicted of crimes, with one sent to federal prison, Gravel separates those leaders from the representatives who voted to elevate them.

“Sometimes people fall on the wrong side of things,” he says. “That doesn’t mean everybody up there has problems or issues.”

Further, he rejects the criticism that individual state representatives are given little independence by the leadership.

“My job is to do what’s best for Peabody,” he says.

For that matter, his first declaration of independence might be on Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to raise nearly $2 billion in taxes for programs including high-speed rail.

“I just don’t think it’s a good time to increase taxes on anybody,” Gravel says, suggesting, rather, that increasing employment ought to be encouraged to stabilize state finances.

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