Two new members, one a 24-year Republican woman with little political experience, were elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives Tuesday night in special elections in Peabody and Everett.
Leah Cole won the vote in Peabody, where the GOP newcomer will fill the seat held by Joyce Spiliotis, who died of cancer in November at the age of 65. Spiliotis had served 10 years in the House.
“I feel so excited and grateful to the voters in Peabody for believing in my message and what I’m trying to bring to the State House, and I’m so happy that my message resonated with them,” Cole said Tuesday night after her victory.
The first-time candidate beat Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne 35 percent to 34 percent, leaving independent candidate Dave Gravel with 31 percent of the votes, according to unofficial returns.
Cole, a licensed nurse practitioner, said she will primarily focus in the Legislature on responsible spending and transparency in government and jobs.
During her brief campaign, Cole was backed by Republican Charles Baker, who lost the race for governor in 2010, and New Jobs for Massachusetts, a public policy advocate for job growth in the private sector, among other local groups.
Although she lacks previous political experience, Cole says she does not believe that will hinder her work on Beacon Hill.
“As long as the constituent services are there, as long as I’m just voting for the will of the people, I don’t think it should be a factor,” Cole said. “There have been plenty of first-time state reps that have done phenomenal things.”
Nearly 20 percent of the total registered voters in the 12th Essex District, which includes most of Peabody, voted in Tuesday’s election.
In Everett, Democrat Wayne Matewsky won the seat by 49 votes, according to the city clerk’s office.
Matewsky, a 30-year veteran of Everett politics, will replace Stephen “Stat” Smith. Smith resigned from the House in January after pleading guilty to casting invalid absentee ballots.
With a 35-percent-to-33-percent edge, Matewsky beat former Everett mayor John Hanlon, who ran a write-in campaign.
Ward 5 Common Councilor Rosa DiFlorio earned 20 percent of the vote, and former Everett School Committee member Dennis Gianatassio garnered 11 percent.
About 3,600 residents voted in the special election.
Matewsky, who began his political career at the age of 20, is an Everett councilman representing Ward 1.
“I’m very happy,” Matewsky said. “It’s was a long 3½ months. I lost 16 pounds!”
He said that he will put much of his focus on senior citizens, veterans, and working families.
“I’ve been at this since 1981 and in 32 years, this is the best reward I could ever receive.”