SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 3, 2013

Benton: Is Gomez Brown redux?

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Given what happened in Peabody last month and statewide a few years ago, Democrats ought not take for granted Ed Markey’s election as U.S. senator.

The fact that he is a virtual unknown may be the best thing that Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez has going for him heading into the June 25 final against the Democratic congressman from Malden to fill the seat vacated by John Kerry when he was appointed secretary of state.

Gomez, a former Navy SEAL and successful businessman, prevailed over two better-known Republicans — former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Dan Winslow, who served as legal adviser to Mitt Romney when he was governor.

Democrats had best hope Peabody is not a bellwether. Voters there last month elected Republican Leah Cole to the state representative seat left vacant by the death of veteran Democrat Joyce Spiliotis, and Tuesday voted for South Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch over Markey in the Democratic primary.

Former Mayor Michael Bonfanti’s take: Peabody voters don’t like being told who to vote for, referring to the fact that Markey was far and away the favorite of the Democratic establishment in the Bay State. Indeed, most of those same Democrats thought Attorney General Martha Coakley was a lock to succeed the late Ted Kennedy until she was beaten by a little-known state senator by the name of Scott Brown.

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A couple of familiar names ended up winners in recent local elections: North Shore Community College President Wayne Burton recently won a seat on the Durham (N.H.) Town Council, while former Salem News and PEM staffer Greg Liakos this week won a seat on the Wakefield School Committee.

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Former state Rep. Tom Walsh will kick off his campaign for an at-large seat on the Peabody City Council with an event Wednesday, June 19, at 6 p.m. at Toscana’s Ristorante on Bourbon Street in West Peabody.

And there will be least one other fresh face in this race in the person of longtime Republican Party activist Scott Frasca, who lists public safety, the municipal budget and improving the city’s economy among his priorities.

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As state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, champions the idea of banning plastic bags in grocery stores and the Salem City Council mulls new limits on the use of leaf blowers, the questions that voters ought to ask themselves is what will government want to ban next.

Taxes and smoking restrictions have turned tobacco into something very close to a banned substance. And now it appears that Gov. Deval Patrick wants to do the same with candy and soft drinks.

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Voters in Danvers go to the polls Tuesday. Incumbents Dan Bennett and Keith Lucy face a tough challenge from retired judge and former Town Moderator David Mills in the race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen.

And if Lucy ends up the odd man out, there’s no guarantee that he would be chosen to fill the seat recently vacated by Mike Powers. As Selectman Gardner Trask noted recently, while some might favor naming either Lucy or Bennett to Powers’ seat should they lose next week, the fact will be “the electorate voted that person out of office.”

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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.