SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 15, 2013

Benton: Surprise winner in Peabody

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — North Shore Republican leaders are feeling hoodwinked once again, this time with the nomination of social conservative Leah Cole for the Peabody state representative seat formerly occupied by the late Joyce Spiliotis.

State employee Greg Bunn was much more to the establishment’s liking, but he ended up losing by 52 votes in this month’s primary.

One veteran GOP activist (not from Peabody) suspects the Rand Paul-affiliated Liberty Caucus and a Woburn-based coalition of right-wing groups was behind Cole’s candidacy. The former was the same group that orchestrated the embarrassing sneak offensive at last year’s caucuses that left a slew of well-known party figures without invitations to the presidential nominating convention in Tampa.

On the other hand, Cole does have the support of a former Peabody Democratic activist, Mark Titelbaum, now living in Taunton. A former Peabody Institute Library trustee and vice chairman of the Peabody Democratic City Committee, he recently wrote the News endorsing Cole’s candidacy.

All of which is immaterial, of course, since the legislative seat will go to either Democratic nominee Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne or independent David Gravel when the election is held April 2.

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U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, who counts state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, among his biggest fans locally, is enjoying consistently strong support in the various polls assessing the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Veteran Democratic strategist Michael Goldman on former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s decision to accept a job with a Boston law firm that does lobbying work for the financial industry: “I think Charlie Baker just became the Republican nominee for governor.” The former Swampscott selectman is said to be considering a second attempt at winning the corner office.

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Not having to worry about re-election, Deval Patrick appears determined to press ahead with his effort to raise a number of taxes despite the fact that, according to Citizens for Limited Taxation, Bay State residents already bear the fourth-highest per-capita tax burden in the country.

That puts Democratic legislators, many of whom are indeed hoping to win another election or two, in a tough position. While Patrick promises unions and others that help (or rather, more money) is on the way, those who pay the freight are likely not amused.

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The Danvers selectmen’s race has taken an interesting turn with the entry of retired judge and former town moderator David Mills into the mix.

The guess here is that given Mills’ popularity (his father, Frank, was longtime town moderator), one of the two incumbents facing re-election will be left out in the cold. Keith Lucy has been a controversial figure, spearheading the opposition to the regional dispatch center in Middleton and tussling with fellow observers while awaiting election results recently, while Dan Bennett may have alienated some with his efforts to unseat longtime Democratic state Rep. Ted Speliotis.

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Datebook: State Rep. Jerry Parisella, D-Beverly, will celebrate his 50th birthday with a $50-$250 fundraiser on Monday, March 25, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at EJ Cabot’s, 282 Cabot St.

Hard to believe Parisella’s reached the midcentury mark. This columnist can remember when he was a fledgling reporter covering the Tri-Town area for the News.

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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.