By Alan Burke
MARBLEHEAD — It may have looked for a moment like the much touted "Republican wave" was coming through Marblehead and Swampscott last night. But it turned out to be Democrat Lori Ehrlich riding to victory.
A region that went solidly for Republican Scott Brown last January gave the incumbent state representative an overwhelming majority. She took the seat with an estimated 60 percent-plus of the vote.
"I set out from day one deciding that I was going to run a positive campaign," a smiling Ehrlich said. "I kept to it. But it wasn't always easy. ... People are tired of negativity and mudslinging."
Ehrlich bested her challenger, Swampscott psychiatrist Kate Kozitza, in every precinct in both towns, as well as in the two Lynn precincts carved out as part of the district, according to her campaign manager, former Lynn City Councilor Robert Tucker. "There was a lot of hard work," he explained. "A lot of door knocking."
Her vote is all the more impressive, Tucker added, given the anti-incumbent atmosphere that surrounded the campaign. In fact, although Democratic office holders did very well statewide, they lost some house seats.
Ehrlich's involvement in local issues began with the group HealthLink and opposition to the polluting Salem power plant. As a representative, however, she has promoted her position as the only certified public accountant in a Legislature now grappling with chronic budget problems.
She backed the increase in the state sales tax, but explained that this was a bargain made to avoid a doubling of highway tolls into Boston.
Another advantage for Ehrlich is her deep roots in the community. Last night, amidst a celebration at the Gourmet Gardens Chinese restaurant in Vinnin Square, she recounted a girlhood that took her from Swampscott schools to various Marblehead schools and back again to Swampscott.
"I've met a lot of people," she said of those days. After taking congratulations from one supporter, she noted that many have since joined to back her politically.
Meanwhile, Kozitza, in her first foray into politics, saw a bright side to the effort. "I'm proud that an unprecedented number of voters came out and checked the R box. My message did resonate ... but ultimately my supporters were outnumbered."
Kozitza said she called and offered congratulations to Ehrlich. "I told her it was an honor running against her."
On the other hand, she disputed a suggestion by Ehrlich that she had run a negative campaign. Kozitza insisted that she merely faulted her opponent's record and never resorted to any personal attacks.
While she first dismissed the idea when asked if she would consider another run for public office, Kozitza also expressed enthusiasm for remaining involved and finally concluded, "I wouldn't rule out another run."