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A good night for Democrats, but bright spots for GOP

As Democrats celebrated victories at the statewide and national levels last Tuesday, they also had much to savor in area legislative contests.

Democrats emerged victorious in six races for open seats, one of which had been in Republican hands. Meanwhile, several of the party’s incumbents fended off stiff challenges from Republicans, and all 18 facing opposition held on to their seats.

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But the results also gave Republicans some reasons to cheer. The GOP picked up a seat in an open race and saw both of its incumbents facing challengers prevail, one in a competitive race.

In the most well-watched race, Newburyport Democrat Kathleen O’Connor Ives   cruised to victory in a four-way contest for the First Essex state Senate seat that was vacated when Methuen Democrat Steven Baddour resigned last April.

Ives, a city councilor, took 46 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Haverhill Republican Shaun P. Toohey, a School Committee member. They were followed by two unenrolled candidates, Haverhill School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti, with 16 percent, and Amesbury city councilor James Kelcourse, with 4 percent.  

“I feel grateful to the voters and thankful to the supporters who worked so hard to make this possible,” Ives said on election night. “More than that, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to carry on our district’s tradition of effective Senate leadership. I’m ready to get to work on the challenges we face in the Merrimack Valley.”

Salem Democrat Joan B. Lovely coasted to a win in the race for the open Second Essex state Senate seat, picking up 71 percent of the vote to 29 percent for Beverly Republican Richard Jolitz. Lovely, who had won a hotly contested four-way primary, will succeed Peabody Democrat Frederick E. Berry, who is retiring after 30 years in office.

“I feel elated,” said Lovely, Salem’s City Council president. “We started this campaign back in January. We started knocking on doors in March and we put in the work. It was a real grass-roots effort. I’m just so grateful to the voters for seeing how hard I worked and how hard I am going to work when I get into office.”

Republican Lenny Mirra edged out Democrat Barry P. Fogel to claim the Second Essex House seat, which Democrat Harriett L. Stanley of West Newbury held for nine terms before deciding to retire. Mirra, the sole GOP candidate statewide to claim a Democrat-held seat, won 52 to 48 percent in the race between the two first-time candidates from West Newbury.

“It was especially gratifying, because Democrats cleaned house and we had to work twice as hard,” he said, citing his extensive door-to-door campaign.

“I’m excited. I have never run for any seat before. . . . I can’t wait to get down there,” Mirra said.

Bedford Democrat Ken Gordon won the 21st Middlesex House seat of retiring Burlington Democrat Charles A. Murphy, defeating Burlington Republican and Selectman Walter Zenkin, 55 to 45 percent.  

Gordon was able to prevail by taking his hometown of Bedford by 2,506 votes and then finishing just 266 votes behind Zenkin in Zenkin’s hometown of Burlington and nearly even with him in the district’s Wilmington precinct, which Zenkin took by 11 votes.  

“I’m excited to have earned the trust and confidence of the majority of the voters of the district,” said Gordon, who chairs Bedford’s Cultural Council and is vice chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Gordon said he won because “I let the voters know what I stood for. I ran on specific issues that I value. I did not rely on campaign rhetoric and didn’t make any hollow promises.”

In the newly redrawn 14th Essex House district, Methuen Democrat Diana DiZoglio defeated North Andover Republican Karin K. Rhoton to take the seat currently held by seven-term incumbent David M. Torrisi of North Andover.

A first-time candidate, DiZoglio had upset Torrisi in the primary. In the final, she picked up 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Rhoton, a former North Andover School Committee member.

“I’m really excited. I won by more than I thought I was going to,” said DiZoglio, attributing the win to her efforts to meet voters door to door across the district, which includes parts of Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, and North Andover.  

In the 3d Third Middlesex Senate district, meanwhile, Michael J. Barrett, a former state senator and a Lexington Democrat, defeated Chelmsford Republican Sandi Martinez   to succeed retiring eight-term Lincoln Democrat Susan C. Fargo.  

Lawrence Democrat and City Council president Frank A. Moran was also victorious, defeating unenrolled Kevin Cuff, of Andover  63 to 37 percent, to claim the open 17th Essex House seat.  

In other notable wins for Democrats, state Senator Barry R. Finegold retained his Second Essex and Middlesex seat by defeating Paul Adams, the Andover Republican who currently holds the 17th Essex House seat. Finegold collected 65 percent to 35 percent for Adams, who opted to run for the Senate after being redistricted out of his House district.

In the 13th Essex House district, veteran state Representative Theodore C. Speliotis, of Danvers, defeated Danvers Republican and Selectman Dan Bennett 63 to 37 percent. The race was a rematch of their 2010 bout, also won by Speliotis.

In the 18th Essex House district, it was a Republican incumbent, James J. Lyons Jr.  of Andover, who bested a Democratic challenger, Barbara A. L’Italien  of Andover. Lyons, who had unseated L’Italien in 2010, edged L’Italien this time by 51 to 49 percent.  

In some of Tuesday’s other results, Democratic incumbent Colleen M. Garry  of Dracut, defeated Dracut Selectwoman and Republican Cathy Richardson in the 36th Middlesex House district, 59 to 41 percent.  

In the 19th Middlesex House district, longtime Democratic incumbent James R. Miceli  of Wilmington cruised to another term, defeating Tewksbury Republican and Selectman Douglas W. Sears,  74 to 26 percent.  

Representative Marcos A. Devers, a Lawrence Democrat, far outpaced former state representative Jose L. Santiago, an unenrolled Lawrence resident, 84 to 16 percent in the race for the 16th Essex House seat.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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