By Ethan Forman
---- — DANVERS — Selectman Dan Bennett will have another shot at the seat held by Democratic state Rep. Ted Speliotis, after a successful write-in campaign garnered Bennett 217 votes in the Republican primary.
Town Clerk Joseph Collins certified his name when registrars counted 159 write-in votes, Bennett said.
“I’m on the ballot for November,” he said.
The votes act as the 150 signatures Bennett would have needed for his name to appear on the Republican primary ballot. Bennett said he still must file an income disclosure and other forms with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance and certify that he is going to run. He must do so by Sept. 19.
He intends to do just that, he said last night in a cell phone interview from the Maple Street Tavern in Danvers Square.
“This is the only state rep race on the North Shore,” said Bennett, who lost to Speliotis by fewer than 500 votes in November 2010 in a bid to represent the 13th Essex District.
Since then, however, the district has changed, adding precincts in Peabody, which is seen as a Speliotis stronghold since he spent his early childhood there before his family moved to Danvers. The redistricting added approximately 5,000 people in West Peabody plus a precinct in Middleton, and dropped Topsfield from the district.
“That’s definitely a benefit,” Speliotis said.
Speliotis is also one of the longest serving legislators on Beacon Hill, having serving from 1979 to 1986 before he lost a bid for re-election. He regained the seat in 1997 and has held it since. He is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
Bennett, 63, said Republican activists approached him in mid-August, wanting to run a sticker campaign to draft him. Bennett did not file nomination papers by the deadline to get on the primary ballot because, he said, at the time he was chairman of the Board of Selectmen and a lieutenant governor for the Kiwanis, helping to oversee 10 clubs and 360 members.
With that behind him, he said, “once the seed was planted, it was very easy to jump in and go for it, especially where we came so close the last time.” About two weeks ago he threw himself into the write-in campaign, which involved mailing stickers to supporters and sending an email to them to gauge their support.
“They were all 100 percent supportive,” Bennett said.
Diane Langlais came aboard as his campaign manager two days ago, he said.
Speliotis said he took nothing for granted.
“I was out holding signs for the entire 13 hours,” Speliotis said last night, standing outside the Holten Richmond Middle School. He had most of the polls in the district covered, he said.
Speliotis said he did have an inkling Bennett was running a write-in campaign.
Speliotis garnered 1,266 votes unopposed in the Democratic primary.
When asked if he intended to challenge the certification, Speliotis said, “I don’t know, but I will explore it.” He said he does not know what that might entail, but it may be complicated. “I didn’t want to get into it, I just wanted to do my thing. I’m very excited to promote my ... record.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.