For the first time in more than two decades, voters in the 13th Essex state representative district will receive a ballot without Ted Speliotis' name on it.
The longtime lawmaker announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking another term, paving the way for a five-person race to succeed him. In an election year that has seen most state legislators go unchallenged such a crowded field is a rarity. It is also a boon for the residents of Danvers, Middleton and West Peabody, as the five candidates offer different perspectives on the role.
The candidates are Democrat Sally Kerans, Republican Bob May and independents Bill Bates, Jason Guida and Christopher Keohane.
The winner of Tuesday's vote will find themselves entering a legislative maelstrom. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life in the Bay State in myriad ways. Schools are teaching students of all ages with a mix of in-person and online training. Many of those students do not have access to technology or adequate space and privacy for learning at home. Nursing homes are fighting to keep the virus at bay while continuing to battle shortages of personal protective equipment. Businesses of all sizes, but particularly small businesses, are struggling to stay open as the state enforces social distancing and occupancy limits. Unemployment remains around 10%, and no one really knows what next year's state budget will look like.
We are heartened to see a healthy slate of candidates, including newcomers like Keohane, Guida and May.
But while we generally support the idea of fresh faces on Beacon Hill, our current situation calls for an experienced hand. That's why we are urging residents to vote for Kerans.
The 60-year-old Kerans has actually held the job before, serving from 1990 to 1997. She chose not to run again, paving the way for Speliotis' 23-year run.
That did not, however, spell an end to her public service. The Danvers High graduate has served as a Town Meeting member and as a member of the antipoverty nonprofit Citizens Inn. She has served for the past decade on the Human Rights and Inclusion Committee and is a current member of the town Finance Committee.
She has pledged to make the response to and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic her top priority, focusing on everything from making sure a vaccine is distributed equitably to making sure small businesses are getting the support they need to survive.
"My thought when (Speliotis) announced he would not run was ‘this is going to be a very rough time in our state and for our communities and I know how to do this job. That’s how I can help in this moment,’” Kerans said.
“I know how to work with colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans," she told reporter Erin Nolan. "I know how to build alliances and relationships to pass legislation to get that local priority addressed, whether it’s local aid or whether it is infrastructure projects."
It's that experience, and her focus on helping her district and the state emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, that make her the right person for the job.
In the region's only other contested legislative race, we recommend that Beverly voters return Jerry Parisella to office. Parisella, who is opposed by perennial candidate Euplio Marciano, has proven to be a thoughtful voice in the Legislature, especially on veterans' issues.
His low-key demeanor belies his effectiveness; he has managed to secure almost $100 million in funding for Beverly projects over the past five years. And it was the bill he sponsored in honor of the Frates family that established the first week of August as Ice Bucket Challenge Week in Massachusetts.
He has certainly earned a sixth term.