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    Two candidates vie for open 14th Essex House seat

    They began their campaigns with a common quest: to bring new representation to the 14th Essex House district.

    Now voters will decide whether Diana DiZoglio or Karin K. Rhoton gets to realize that goal.

    In September, DiZoglio, of Methuen, upset seven-term state Representative David Torrisi of North Andover in the Democratic primary. In Tuesday’s election, DiZoglio and Rhoton, a North Andover Republican, are vying in the district that includes part of Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, and North Andover.


    The race marks the first under newly drawn district lines that saw the 14th Essex lose a large section of Lawrence and part of North Andover, while gaining portions of Methuen and Haverhill.

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    The redistricting, the absence of an incumbent, and the lack of a clear front-runner have all helped draw attention to the race.

    DiZoglio gained visibility from her successful primary campaign, and has since picked up endorsements from Democratic state Representatives Brian Dempsey of Haverhill; Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen; and Marcos Devers of Lawrence.

    Rhoton is known locally from having served a term on the North Andover School Committee — she did not seek reelection this spring — and for the last few years on the town Audit Committee. She also has the backing of Republican state Representatives James J. Lyons Jr. of Andover and Brad Jones of North Reading, who previously represented part of North Andover.  

    A key issue for both candidates is the need to strengthen the local economy, in particular to support small businesses. Both support rolling back the 6.25 percent sales tax to 5 percent to help border businesses compete with businesses in New Hampshire, which has no sales tax.


    “I want to help with job creation,” DiZoglio said. “I believe we need to help small businesses stay in places like Methuen, North Andover, Lawrence, and Haverhill instead of going over the border.”

    She said that means “not overburdening new entrepreneurs with regulations and by keeping the sales tax low so they can get their businesses going and create jobs for people in our communities.”

    Rhoton also believes reducing the sales tax is essential.

    “We live 10 minutes from my house to the New Hampshire border, so the sales tax being 6.25 percent is really an economic killer for us around here,” she said. “A lot of people go shopping in New Hampshire because they don’t have to pay the sales tax.”

    She said she also wants to reduce regulations to free up money for small and mid-sized businesses that they can use to “reinvest in their businesses and hire more people.”


    DiZoglio, 29, was unenrolled until registering as a Democrat earlier this year when she decided to run for the seat. For eight months last year, she worked on Beacon Hill as a legislative aide to state Representative Paul Adams, an Andover Republican.

    She later worked briefly as chief of staff to Edward A. Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, and as a campaign manager/representative for the National Association of Government Employees.  

    DiZoglio, who is fluent in Spanish, has also worked or volunteered at several youth agencies, including as a mentor and cultural arts coordinator for United Teen Equality Center, in Lowell.

    Although a Wellesley College graduate, DiZoglio noted that she started her post-secondary education at Middlesex Community College while working full-time as a waitress to support herself.

    “I know what it’s like to struggle day to day to get a good education and to make ends meet. It’s not easy, and I can relate to a lot of people when it comes to things like that,” said DiZoglio, a cousin of former Methuen mayor Dennis DiZoglio.

    Rhoton, 37, works as vice president of operations and sales for a small information technology firm in Wilmington. She previously worked as a business systems analyst for Thermo Fisher Scientific, a scientific instruments firm.

    She said qualities she would bring to the legislative job include honesty and her experience growing up in a single-parent home.

    “I worked my way through high school and contributed to the family even when I was young . . . so I learned responsibility and I learned how to stretch the dollar and only buy things you could afford,” Rhoton said.

    She said her life, business, and public service background “would serve the Merrimack Valley well.”

    In addition to the economy, Rhoton’s priorities would include advocating for further steps to eliminate waste and abuse in the state’s welfare system.

    “We need to build people back up who are struggling and have hit a rough patch in life, but we can’t do that if we continue to turn a blind eye to the abuses that are happening in our system,” she said.

    DiZoglio said her other priorities would include working to return civic education to the public schools.

    “The children of our communities are graduating without being able to describe what a city council does or. . . the difference between a town manager and a mayor. Yet they are encouraged to vote,” she said. “We really need to make sure we’re educating our kids because these are our next leaders.”

    Methuen City Councilor Lisa Yarid Ferry, a Democrat, supports DiZoglio.

    “I think Diana brings her youthful, energetic, passionate personality, and her education and experience,” said Ferry, who is also impressed with what she said is DiZoglio’s commitment to doing a good job and her willingness to listen to people’s concerns.

    Lawrence City Councilor Marc Laplante, a Republican, backs Rhoton.

    “What impressed me is her local elected experience. . . I think that is really important as she goes to Beacon Hill and understands the kinds of pressures the various communities are facing,” he said.

    John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.