DANVERS — The announcement last week by longtime Danvers state Rep. Ted Speliotis that he will not be seeking reelection has generated a scrum of potential candidates for the 13th Essex District seat.
Candidates are now racing to collect 75 signatures by the May 5 deadline, as voters practice social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
At least two Danvers residents who know their way around Beacon Hill — former state Rep. Sally Kerans, a Democrat, and Speliotis' aide Bill Bates, an independent — announced their plans to run over the weekend.
Two other independents from Danvers — entrepreneur Chris Keohane and attorney Jason Guida — have pulled nomination papers, according to the secretary of state's office. The district includes Danvers, Precinct 2 in Middleton, and Ward 5 and Ward 6 Precinct 2 in Peabody.
West Peabody businessman and Republican Robert May said he will also enter the race, noting he has gotten more than enough signatures to get on the ballot.
May noted he jumped into the race a week-and-a-half before Speliotis made his announcement to retire after 32 years on Beacon Hill.
"It's an open seat," May said, "and anything can happen in an open seat."
Dan Bennett, the chairman of the Danvers Board of Selectmen, who twice challenged Speliotis unsuccessfully (2010 and 2012), said he did not plan to run and will focus on issues related to the pandemic and its impact on Danvers.
Kerans, 59, who serves on the Danvers Finance Committee, announced on Saturday she's running for the seat she occupied from 1991-97. She was succeeded by Speliotis in his return to Beacon Hill. Speliotis had served in the neighboring 12th Essex from 1979-86 before being defeated.
"We are in unprecedented times and will deal with the devastating economic consequences of COVID-19 in the coming months and years," Kerans wrote. "My experience in the Legislature and my involvement in civic life and local government in the years since I last served in the Legislature will serve me well in tackling these challenges."
Bates is a former nine-year Danvers School Committee member who has worked as the district coordinator for constituent services for Speliotis for 10 years. He has served for more than 20 years as an elected Town Meeting member.
Bates had been unenrolled for the past few years, and the deadline had passed for him to run as a Democrat, he said.
"As the former owner of Howe's Station Market in Middleton, I have felt the positive and negative effects that government has on small businesses," Bates said in his announcement.
Keohane is the founder of Fresh Food Company and the Keohane & Company consulting company within the food and beverage industry, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Attempts to reach Keohane and Guida Monday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Debra O'Malley, a spokesperson for the secretary of state's office, said both independents and party candidates have until May 5 to get 75 signatures, instead of the normal 150. This came after a recent ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court cut in half the signature requirements for candidates and allowed them to gather signatures electronically due to the pandemic.