Candidates square off for districts

With the final lineups set after last week’s primaries, voters will be taking a closer look at who they will choose to fill two state representative district posts in the April 2 special election.

Wayne Matewsky won a five-way Democratic race in the 28th Middlesex, which covers the city of Everett, and Leah Cole prevailed in a two-way Republican primary in the 12th Essex, which comprises most of Peabody.

Matewsky will face two independent candidates — Everett City Councilor Rosa DiFlorio and former School Committee member Dennis John Gianatassio — in the special election. There is no Republican candidate.


The seat opened when Stephen “Stat” Smith, an Everett Democrat, won a fourth term last November but resigned Jan. 1 as part of an agreement to plead guilty in federal court to misdemeanor voter fraud charges.

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In Peabody, Cole, a licensed practical nurse with no previous political experience, will square off against School Committee member Beverly A. Griffin Dunne — who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary — and City Councilor at Large and independent Dave Gravel.

Joyce A. Spiliotis, a Peabody Democrat, died Nov. 29 after a battle with cancer soon after she was reelected to a sixth term.

While Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, there are enough unregistered voters in both districts to swing the vote either way on election day. According to the secretary of state’s office, of Everett’s 18,591 voters registered for the March 6, 2012, presidential primary, 8,082 were unenrolled with a recognized party while 9,447 were Democrat; 960 Republican; and 13 Green-Rainbow.

In Peabody, the majority of 34,399 registered voters — 19,583 — were unenrolled, while 11,530 were Democrat; 3,138 Republican; and 20 Green-Rainbow.


A Ward 1 common councilor in Everett, Matewsky is highlighting his long tenure of service to the city. He said it was that record — coupled with strong support from senior citizens and union members — that helped carry him to victory in the primary.

Everett residents “know what I stand for and what I’ve been doing for 32 years,” he said. “I don’t give them lip service. I actually return their calls. I care about the needs and concerns of the people of the city.”

DiFlorio, a four-term Ward 5 common councilor who co-owns a ceramic tile business, said she would bring an independent-minded approach to Beacon Hill.

“I’m the only one that can work with everybody,” she said. “I’m open-minded. I want to go [to the State House] so we can work together and once again be Americans. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans.

Citing her background as an Italian immigrant, a mother of five, and a small-business owner, she said she also understands the concerns of everyday families, including “how important education is from the time a child is 2 years old.”


Gianatassio was a School Committee member for two terms, from 1994 to 1998. A self-employed handyman/painter, he lost a bid for the House seat in 2010.

“I would bring a very deep dedication to spiritual and moral principles that I’ve believed in throughout my life, and I’m going to really work hard to bring that conversation to the public square,” he said.

“There is a really terrible disparity and inequity of resources in this country and I’m going to work to try to remedy that.”

In the primary, Matewsky collected 921 votes to 870 for Alderman at Large Joseph W. McGonagle; 830 for former mayor John Hanlon; 767 for Ward 2 Alderman Michael J. Mangan; and 496 for Ward 1 Councilor Sergio Cornelio.

In the Republican primary in Peabody, Cole outpaced fellow first-time candidate Greg Bunn by 512 votes to 460.

“I just bring fresh ideas,” Cole said. “I’m not politically connected so I’m not indebted to the power brokers or the politically connected on Beacon Hill. I don’t owe any favors. So I’m going in to just do the work of the people. . . . I want to give voters another choice if they are unhappy with the way the government is going.”

Griffin Dunne, a lawyer in her 10th year on the School Committee, said: “One of the things I bring is commitment. It’s a full-time job and I’m ready to commit to that.”

She said her background as an elected official in Peabody would be useful on the state level “because I’m aware of the issues and experienced in being able to deal with those and to take hard votes and to make sure I’m a strong voice for the people of Peabody.”

The founder and chief executive of a technology consulting company, Gravel is in his third term as a councilor at large in Peabody after two terms on the School Committee.

“What I bring is a strong background both in work and in public services. . . . , and an understanding of the issues impacting the city of Peabody,” he said. “I think that having been on the School Committee and having been a city councilor, I can bring a perspective to the position that will create a very strong voice for the city at the State House.”

John Laidler can be reached at