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Local News

January 21, 2014

Peabody rep surprised by help from both sides of aisle

PEABODY — When she goes to take her seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Leah Cole is careful to bring her ID. Sometimes, she’s stopped at the door, “because they think I’m an aide,” she said.

It’s a minor inconvenience for the 25-year-old Republican, who is one of the youngest members of the House, having taken office in a special election last spring following the death of Rep. Joyce Spiliotis. What’s more, she said, “It’s more than likely” she will seek re-election this year.

“It was a learning curve,” Cole said of her early days on Beacon Hill. She admits to moments wondering how she managed to find herself under the historic golden dome. “But I took it all in, and I had a lot of people helping me,” she said, mentioning GOP leader Brad Jones of North Reading, Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) and Rep. Ted Speliotis, the Democrat representing Danvers and West Peabody.

While Cole’s election gave a boost to beleaguered Republicans statewide, she was surprised at “how much both sides do work together. I was prepared to be battling with the Democrats.” Instead, many issues are nonpartisan, she said, and Democrats have been almost as willing as her party colleagues to offer help.

After nine months on the job, Cole cited among her accomplishments winning $25,000 for Peabody to finance last year’s series of special elections.

“I was proud of that,” she said. She also supported the mayor’s successful home rule petition to remove the police and fire chiefs from Civil Service.

Both on and off Beacon Hill, Cole has opposed last summer’s bill allowing the gas tax to rise with the increase in inflation. To make the point, she’s been out collecting signatures for an initiative petition to repeal automatic increases.

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