SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 22, 2013

Benton: Voters have a choice in Peabody

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Peabody voters in Wards 1-4 and part of Ward 5 will go to the polls April 2 to choose a replacement for the late Joyce Spiliotis as their state representative.

There’s a Republican, Leah Cole, in the race, but this is essentially a contest between two veteran officeholders — School Committeewoman Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne and City Councilor Dave Gravel.

Griffin Dunne is the Democratic candidate and says she will be a legislator in the mold of Spiliotis, who once proclaimed her intention to “vote my conscience, or however the people tell me to.” Griffin Dunne’s campaign slogan is “Putting People First,” which harkens back to Spiliotis’ description of herself as “the people’s Joyce.”

It was an effective formula for winning votes locally but bore scant returns on Beacon Hill, where Peabody often found itself looking on enviously as the state poured money into high-profile projects in neighboring communities like Salem (new courthouse, new train station, university expansion) and Danvers (new regional vocational school, community college expansion).

Gravel, on the other hand, claims he’ll be “a strong representative for Peabody” and cites his years of effective experience on both the School Committee and City Council, as well as his contributions to key civic groups ranging from the Peabody Education Foundation to the local YMCA.

Those endorsing Gravel’s candidacy run the gamut from former Mayor Michael Bonfanti to former City Councilor Mary Waselchuk. Griffin Dunne claims some union support, as well as that of the local Democratic City Committee. (Gravel is unenrolled and thus running as an independent, but says he will caucus with the Democrats if elected).

As of this writing, current Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who once shared a law office with Griffin Dunne, was staying neutral, at least publicly. But if he’s hoping for the kind of effective representation that, say, John Keenan has provided Salem, he’ll be secretly rooting for Gravel.

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The Beverly City Council will miss the quiet, but very classy, presence of veteran Ward 1 representative Maureen Troubetaris, who announced this week that she will not seek re-election after 22 years in the post.

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Salem’s not-so-classy Ward 2 councilor, Mike Sosnowski, who claimed he was “blackmailed” into supporting the new senior center that he described as “the worst thing we could do” before voting in favor of it last week, has an opponent. She’s Heather Famico, a Salem native and graduate of St. Michael’s College who, like many others, was very much in favor of replacing the outdated senior center with a modern facility that will help bring new life to the weed-strewn lot at the corner of Bridge and Boston streets.

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Datebook: Former Mayor Jean Levesque — an oft-forgotten hero of Salem’s downtown renaissance — will be honored this Sunday at an event from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Moose Family Center, 50 Grove St. ... Sean O’Brien will kick off his campaign for the Ward 4 City Council seat in Salem with an event on Tuesday, March 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bob’s Famous Fried Clams on Highland Avenue. ... Danvers selectman candidate David Mills will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser on Friday, April 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Polish Club.

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Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.