SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 4, 2014

Cole to run for re-election; Griffin Dunne likely opponent

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — State Rep. Leah Cole is running for re-election.

“I was able to start fighting for the things I believe in and the things the people of Peabody elected me to do,” Cole, a Republican, said. And it’s work she wants to continue.

She said her priorities include sorting out the state’s spending to get more money to cities like Peabody.

“Instead of raising taxes ... let’s figure out ways we can spend what money we have more efficiently,” she said.

As an example of misplaced priorities, she cited a recent $500,000 spent by the state to study black sea bass. That might be beneficial for fisherman, she said, but there are more pressing needs.

“We have trouble filling the potholes in Peabody,” she said.

Further, she pointed to the value of her opposition to the gas tax and her work on the elder affairs and health care financing committees. A nurse, the 25-year-old Cole continues to provide patient care — “my first love” — on weekends.

Cole’s victory last spring shocked political onlookers. In a low-turnout contest, a majority of voters divided between Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne of the school board and Democrat-turned-independent Dave Gravel from the City Council, leaving Cole with a narrow plurality.

Dunne, 56, hasn’t officially announced her candidacy, but she took out papers on Feb. 6 to run again. She hopes to fulfill a promise made on election night to seek a rematch.

“I’m just getting the word out and getting started,” she said, noting that she’s seeing support from her former team, as well as a number of new faces.

Her lifelong Peabody residency and her experience on the School Committee, as well as her work as a lawyer, give her an edge in representing the city, Dunne said. “I have a very good grasp of the issues.” She stressed the need to bring more state aid to the city.

Dunne’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination potentially would have been Tom Gould of the City Council, a top citywide vote-getter. The brother-in-law of Danvers and West Peabody Rep. Ted Speliotis, Gould flirted with the idea and was mentioned frequently as a likely contender. He has decided, however, not to run.

Gould said that the election comes at a busy time in his life: His daughter is getting married.

“It’s much more important that my daughter has wonderful wedding,” he said.

As an officer in the Democratic City Committee, he said that he will withhold his support until after the primary.

Ward 3 Councilor Jim Moutsoulas might join the battle for the Democratic nomination.

“I’m thinking about it,” said Moutsoulas, who had his bid to win the special election slip away when he was disqualified over a ballot technicality. He was subsequently re-elected to the council after a long absence.

“I love being on the council,” Moutsoulas said. “But I feel I could do a lot more for the city of Peabody on the state level.”

Moutsoulas has never won a citywide race (the representative district embraces all of Peabody with the exception of some precincts in West Peabody), but he believes his connection to the city enhances his chances.

“I’ve been involved my whole adult life in the city of Peabody,” he said.

Cole is not likely to have the luxury she enjoyed last year with an established politician mounting an independent challenge and likely taking votes from her Democrat challenger. City Councilor Barry Osborne has flirted with the idea of running as an independent.

“I haven’t made a decision,” he said yesterday. “But I’m 90 percent sure I’m not going to run.”

As he nears retirement, Osborne said, he is dealing with changes at his job.

“I just don’t know if running is the right thing to do,” he said.

The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 9, with the general election to follow on Nov. 4. Candidates pulling papers are expected to collect 150 signatures, but to guard against invalid or illegible names they generally hope to have more than twice that number.

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.