It’s the only race for state representative on the North Shore. It’s also the race that nearly wasn’t.
“It is a surprise campaign,” said state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, whose seat is now in play after not having an opponent during the primary season.
His surprise challenger, Danvers Selectman Dan Bennett, narrowly lost to Speliotis two years ago. During the primary season, Bennett declined to pull nomination papers to get his name on the ballot because he said he was busy with other commitments: He is the former chairman of the Board of Selectmen and is the lieutenant governor of Division 10 and 11 for the New England District of Kiwanis.
Over the summer, the two-term selectman had friends and supporters call him to ask if he was running, and Bennett said they were disappointed to learn he was not. Bennett, 63, a Danvers real estate broker with a long list of public service in town, decided to jump in a few weeks before the primary and run a sticker campaign to get 150 votes to get his name on the November ballot.
He said he was realistic about his chances of getting on the ballot, given that sticker campaigns are fraught with difficulties, since voters must correctly apply stickers to ballots for the vote to be counted.
Bennett said he gave residents a reason to turn out, and enough did during the Republican primary to force a rematch with Speliotis, whom he nearly unseated, losing by fewer than 500 votes two years ago.
Bennett has a formidable opponent, given that Speliotis, a 59-year-old former Danvers town moderator, is one of the longest-serving members of the House. Speliotis served as state representative from 1979 to 1986 before he was narrowly defeated. He worked in government affairs for Northeastern University, his alma mater, then was elected again in 1997, and he has served since then. For the past two years, Speliotis has served as co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.