By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — Joan Lovely sailed to an easy victory last night in a lopsided race for the 2nd Essex District’s state Senate seat.
Lovely, an attorney and Salem city councilor, beat Republican Richard Jolitz by more than 2-1, carrying every community in the district, which includes Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Danvers and Topsfield.
How the North Shore Voted: State Senate, 2nd Essex District
Jolitz, an EMT from Beverly, collected enough signatures to get his name on the Republican primary ballot, but never campaigned for the office. He did not return a call seeking comment.
Lovely will take over for Sen. Fred Berry, a Peabody Democrat who has represented the district for 30 years and who endorsed Lovely this fall.
“I’m elated,” Lovely said last night. “We worked so hard to get here. I’m honored. I’m pinching myself, really. ... What an experience! This whole year, it’s been terrific.”
Lovely celebrated with supporters at Old Town Hall after the polls closed last night. She circulated among tables decorated with blue and green balloons, shaking hands and giving hugs to friends and supporters.
Lovely, a 54-year-old mother of three, has been on the Salem City Council for 15 years.
Last night, she said it will be “impossible” to fill Berry’s shoes. Berry was among the many people Lovely thanked in her victory speech.
“I will do the best job I can and continue to take care of the district,” she said afterward.
Although Lovely campaigned start to finish, the heat of the race came before the Sept. 6 Democratic primary. Lovely won the primary nod over former Peabody state Rep. John Slattery, Governor’s Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning and Edward Carroll of Salem.
Jolitz was endorsed by the Boston Herald, although he did not raise any money, made no public appearances and did not return reporters’ phone calls throughout the fall.
Lovely said last night that she plans to step down from the Salem City Council when she takes her Senate seat in January.
She was re-elected to the City Council last fall; her term lasts through December 2013.
“I want to be able to devote 100 percent of my time (to the Senate),” Lovely said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Salem’s city charter dictates that a City Council vacancy be filled by majority vote of the council. In the past, the board has accepted letters of interest and appointed someone from the pool of candidates.
Last November, the council and School Committee voted jointly to fill a school board vacancy created when School Committee member Kevin Carr was elected to the City Council. The joint boards chose Lisa Lavoie, the top runner-up in the School Committee election that fall.
The top runner-up in the 2011 councilor-at-large election was Darek Barcikowski, owner of Cafe Polonia in downtown Salem. Steve Pinto, then an incumbent councilor, came in behind Barcikowski in a competitive councilor-at-large race.
A similar situation arose in the spring of 2006, when Councilor Michael Bencal resigned in the wake of an ethics violation. Eleven residents expressed interest in filling Bencal’s seat.
A majority of councilors voted to pick not the runner-up in the previous election, James Willis, but Mark Blair, who had served on the council from 1988 to 1999.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.