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December 10, 2012

A special election is likely to fill rep's seat

PEABODY — Peabody has seemingly always been consumed by politics. And inevitably the appearance of an open office anywhere touches off a fever of speculation over who might be angling to fill it.

That isn’t the case, however, following the unexpected death of state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis after an illness. The passing of the popular former city councilor and lifelong Peabody resident has proved shocking enough to freeze all the action. Out of respect, the likely candidates aren’t talking, and even the speculators are holding their judgments close.

Nevertheless, a special election is likely to be scheduled by the new House of Representatives on Beacon Hill after it takes office on Jan. 2. A final election, on the other hand, would be months away.

“Probably in the spring,” said Brian McNiff, spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin.

McNiff explained that the process is entirely in the hands of the House. They could even decide not to hold a special election, although almost certainly it would be scheduled soon after they begin the new session.

“Then the process of holding the election takes about 14 weeks,” he said.

Candidates would be required to come up with 150 signatures in order to be placed on the primary ballot. A primary election would be held for both parties, even if no one has gathered the signatures. “Because there are write-ins.”

In order to be successful, a write-in candidate must win at least 150 votes from his party.

The general election follows. Traditionally, a special election prompts a low turnout and gives an advantage to the candidate who can muster a good campaign organization capable of getting supporters to the polls.

Former Democratic City Committee member Mike Schulze has a reputation for knowing everything worth knowing in Peabody. But he admitted that the death of Spiliotis was a shock to him, as well. Only reluctantly did he consider what might happen next.

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