PEABODY — Money can’t buy you love, and it can’t always buy you votes, either.
Totals on the April special election to fill the state representative seat formerly held by the late Joyce Spiliotis show that winner Leah Cole raised more than $37,000 while spending a little less than $35,000.
But City Councilor Dave Gravel raised more than $40,000, spending more than $39,000, only to finish in third place. More striking is the fact School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne, who lost to Cole by a mere 73 votes, spent roughly $14,000 of $15,000 raised.
Republican Cole won 1,878 votes in a low-turnout election on April 2, with Griffin Dunne reaching 1,805 and Gravel scoring 1,655. It’s been assumed that Griffin Dunne, a Democrat, and Gravel, a former Democrat, split that party’s vote, allowing the GOP victory.
“Historically the person who has the most money always has the edge,” commented former five-term Peabody Mayor Mike Bonfanti. “What this says is that Bev was out there hustling and over the years she has banked up a very solid base of support.”
Both Gravel and Griffin Dunne have won citywide in the past. Bonfanti, who backed Gravel, believes that it’s Griffin Dunne’s strong ties with the schools that helped her. In a low-turnout election teachers and school parents are more likely to vote, as the polling places are often located at schools.
Griffin Dunne’s strong showing could be a harbinger for the next election, when Cole is unlikely to have the luxury of a three-person race.
On the other hand, Bonfanti notes that Peabody is developing a reputation as an electoral maverick. He cites the fact that the losing Democrat in the recent special primary election for the U.S. Senate, Stephen Lynch, won this city. “Peabody is unique,” said Bonfanti. “In Peabody they don’t like to be told. They don’t like to be put in a pocket.”