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.)
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.