By PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — PEABODY — Joan Lovely had already made her victory speech and Mary-Ellen Manning had already conceded by the time John Slattery stepped up to the microphone last night at the AOH Club in Peabody.
Even at that late hour, Slattery’s campaign had not seen the final vote totals from the 2nd Essex District state Senate race.
“The Salem numbers aren’t in but I don’t expect to win Salem,” Slattery told approximately 70 supporters at the club.
Slattery was right about that, but he could not have predicted just how overwhelmingly he had been defeated. Salem City Councilor Joan Lovely rolled to victory by more than 3,000 votes over second-place finisher Slattery, a 54-year-old lawyer and former state representative.
Slattery finished as the top vote-getter in Peabody, but Lovely swept the district’s other four communities, including by wide margins in her hometown of Salem as well as in Beverly and Danvers.
Slattery attributed his defeat in part to “geography,” a reference to the fact that he and fellow Peabody resident Manning were competing for votes in their own hometown while Lovely had free rein in Salem.
“Geography is what won the race,” Slattery said. “You get one candidate coming out of Salem and you get two candidates coming out of Peabody. It makes it tough. But I don’t want to take anything away from Joan. She worked hard and she ran a great race.”
Once the final numbers were tallied, however, Slattery’s analysis proved to be faulty.
Lovely’s victory was so large that she would have won the race even if Slattery had received all of Manning’s 2,611 votes.
Slattery supporter Jim Smerczynski said last week’s endorsement of Lovely by incumbent Sen. Fred Berry was difficult for Slattery to overcome.
“I think Freddie Berry had a big influence on the race,” Smercyznski said. “John is one of the most well-informed, articulate candidates you’re even going to find, but for some reason it didn’t take hold. Lovely did run a good race.”
On the other side of Peabody Square, Manning’s campaign headquarters on Main Street were quiet by 9:30 p.m., just a short time after results were known.
Manning was alone with her husband when a reporter approached for comment, but the candidate’s husband, Ted, intervened, hollering at the reporter, ordering him out of the building and following after him, yelling.
For Slattery, the loss was his third election defeat since serving as Peabody’s state representative from 1995 to 2002. He lost a bid for lieutenant governor in 2002 and for mayor of Peabody in 2005.
Slattery said he’s not sure if he will run for office again, but acknowledged that it would be difficult to put his family through another campaign. He and his wife have three children of college or high school age.
“It’s a lot to ask of your family,” he said.
In a short speech, Slattery thanked his campaign workers and his family and praised Lovely and Manning for “a race well-run.”
“I feel like we ran a very good campaign and had lots of support,” he said. “It just didn’t work out the way we hoped. I still think it’s good to be a progressive Democrat in Massachusetts. You’ve got to remember where you came from. If you’re a Democrat you’ve got to be fighting for working-class values.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.