By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A key legislative race between two good candidates

Ted Speliotis

If there’s a bellwether district in the Massachusetts House this fall, it may be the one in which Media Nation is located. We have a hot race here that is something of a throwback. That is, it pits two good, experienced candidates against each other. Each is genuinely more interested in serving the people of his district than in making any sort of stark ideological appeal.

The district, which comprises Danvers, Topsfield and part of Peabody, is currently represented by Ted Speliotis, a Democrat. His Republican challenger is Dan Bennett, a Danvers selectman. I know Speliotis better than Bennett, though I have met Bennett as well. Speliotis’ liberal views better reflect my own, yet I like Bennett’s emphasis on reforming the culture of patronage and cronyism on Beacon Hill. I’m perfectly comfortable with either man representing me in the Legislature.

Salem News reporter Ethan Forman recently wrote excellent profiles of both Speliotis and Bennett. Forman points out an inconsistency in Bennett’s positions: Bennett opposes new taxes, yet voted for local-option taxes on meals and hotel rooms when given the opportunity. (Forman also wrote a follow-up on where they stand on a variety of issues.)

Dan Bennett

I’m going to give Bennett a pass. Why? On his website, Bennett discusses some real savings the state could see by consolidating state agencies, reforming health insurance for municipal employees and opening up public-construction projects to competition (he doesn’t use the term “non-union,” but that’s what he means). No doubt Bennett believes higher local taxes would be unnecessary if the state got its own spending under control, and he may be right.

I can’t find a website for Speliotis other than his official state profile. But I know he has cast courageous votes in our rather conservative district in favor of same-sex marriage and against the death penalty. He has worked tirelessly to help folks affected by the 2006 explosion in Danversport. And he’s everywhere — he always comes to our Boy Scout troop’s courts of honor to present Statehouse proclamations to our new Eagles. If you think that’s no big deal, you’re wrong.

If the war of the lawn signs is any indication, I think Bennett might pull this out. The signs are fairly mixed in Danvers, where both candidates live, but almost unanimous for Bennett in affluent Topsfield. Peabody, where Speliotis grew up, will likely prove the key.

I’ve suggested to a couple of my friends in the political press that this race would be worth a story. It’s well below radar, especially given exciting gubernatorial and congressional races. Come Election Day, though, it may prove to be just as significant.

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  1. C.E. Stead

    DK – there are literally hundreds of these races. I just got back from a forum with a half dozen contested seats down here. Interesting thing happened.

    CORD (Cape Org. for the Rights of the Disabled) and WXTK sponsored an all day forum with all the races. It was partly disability-focused, but mainly on mainstream issues. It started with Hunt (R) vs. Lambros (D), then Keyes (R) vs. Murray (D-President). When the debate between the Senate President and her challanger ended, about 2/3 of the room got up and left, like the police and firefighters leave town meeting when the contracts get voted. The debate between Matt Patrick (D) and Dave Vieira (R) which followed immediately was actually more substantive, and Foran (R) vs. Turner (D) and Dunford (R) vs. Peake (D) were yet to come. They were already there, and yet the addiction to listening only to ‘high profile’ races was too much to resist.

  2. Dan,

    This local race (my district also) reminds me of the Treasurer race at the state level. Two good candidates, qualified and serious people worthy of the office. In both races, one candidate better reflects my views about government, and they will get my vote(s), but, I know that I’m not choosing between the lesser of two evils, for once. Now that’s Hope and Change!


  3. Mike Benedict

    Hey, hey! I got my first push-poll of the season today. It was a good one, too: Just one question buried in the middle of 20 or so items. But it was a beaut: Would you still vote for Deval Patrick if you knew he raised taxes by over $1 billion, the state unemployment is the highest ever, and we’ve been invaded by space aliens twice during his administration?*

    The tell is the push-pollers never identify themselves or whom they are calling on behalf of.

    *I may have made up the last part.

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