PEABODY — State representative candidate Leah Cole, a Republican, came out swinging last night against unenrolled candidate David Gravel for accepting an endorsement from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, a group she says strongly supports Gov. Deval Patrick’s controversial plan to raise taxes.
Earlier in the debate, Gravel had said he doesn’t support Patrick’s budget and its increased taxes.
“I’d just like to know how you can be endorsed by the Mass. Teachers Association and also oppose the increase in taxes?” Cole, 24, a licensed practical nurse, asked Gravel during a question on each candidate’s priorities.
Gravel, 56, a city councilor-at-large, was quick to shoot back about Cole’s campaign contributions from out of town, including the Marlborough Republican City Committee.
“They endorsed me because of my experience working in education, they endorsed me because of my past experience working in collective bargaining, and they also endorsed me knowing that, unlike you, I take no PAC money and I don’t take my money from Marlborough, I take my money from Peabody,” he said.
Gravel, Cole and school board member Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne, 55, a Democrat, are running for Peabody’s 12th Essex District state representative seat in Tuesday’s special election. The seat was left vacant by the November death of Rep. Joyce Spiliotis.
During the exchange between Cole and Gravel, Griffin Dunne took aim at a mailer sent to Peabody residents by the Massachusetts GOP saying that both Griffin Dunne and Gravel would be “Peas in a Pod” with Patrick.
“That is a pure and simple example of why the country is in the mess it is in today, because that’s a negative, negative campaign ad that further divides our community and divides our nation,” she said.
Cole said she had nothing to do with the advertisement and apologized for the attack. But she defended taking out-of-town money, saying that “people across the state are excited about my message to bring lower taxes and accountability to the Statehouse.”