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Hopefuls racing to finish line

GOP emboldened with more candidates

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / October 31, 2010

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Races for several open state legislative seats are among those claiming attention as the busy state election season enters its final days.

When they head to the polls for Tuesday’s election, area voters will choose state senators and representatives, members of Congress, and local offices in addition to helping decide the high-profile governor’s race and other statewide contests.

A key dynamic in this year’s campaign season has been the strong push by Republicans, inspired by Scott Brown’s election to the Senate last January, to pick up seats at all levels.

In this region, the party has fielded candidates in 30 of the 53 legislative districts, up from 11 in 2006 and 10 in 2008.

John N. Racho, a Republican State Committee member from Ipswich, said his party’s local troops are highly motivated, sensing that the GOP — which holds no statewide offices or seats in the Massachusetts delegation to the US House — has a chance to rebound this year.

“We’re heading toward the finish line, but nobody has that exhausted feeling,’’ Racho said. “We are giddy with excitement.’’

Racho said those high spirits come from a feeling that “voter sentiment is breaking our way — people want an end to one-party rule — and that we’ve got great candidates who have worked very hard to take advantage of the climate.’’

Racho said volunteers have been filling the Republican campaign offices in Wakefield and Beverly to take part in phone banks.

Matthew Patton, a Democratic State Committee member from North Reading, indicated there’s plenty of enthusiasm on his party’s side.

“Democratic activists and people in general are energized to come out and work for Democratic candidates on the North Shore,’’ he said.

At the various Democratic headquarters around the region, “people don’t have places to sit there are so many people coming in to make phone calls and go door to door.’’

Despite the talk of a Republican resurgence in the state, Patton said “the reality is that on Tuesday, Democrats are going to show all across this state that Massachusetts is still the state that sent Ted Kennedy to the Senate for 47 years.’’

There are three local races for open seats in the state Senate. In the Middlesex and Essex District, state Representative Katherine M. Clark, a Melrose Democrat and former School Committee member, and Craig Spadafora, a Malden Republican and city councilor, are squaring off to succeed Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei, a Wakefield Republican who is running for lieutenant governor.

In the Second Essex and Middlesex District, Democratic state Representative Barry R. Finegold, Republican Jamison Tomasek, and independent Jodi B. Oberto, all of Andover, are vying to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Susan C. Tucker of Andover.

In the First Middlesex District, three Lowell residents are competing to replace retiring Democratic incumbent Stephen C. Panagiotakos of Lowell: Democrat Eileen M. Donoghue, a former city councilor and mayor; Lowell Republican James J. Buba; and independent Patrick A. O’Connor.

Among races for state representative, Melrose Democrat and Alderman Paul Brodeur and David R. Lucas of Melrose, a Republican and former Melrose city solicitor, are vying for Clark’s 32d Middlesex seat.

Democratic State Committee member Patricia A. Commane and Republican State Committee member Paul Adams, both of Andover, are competing to succeed Finegold in the 17th Essex District.

Democrat Jerry Parisella and Republican Brett R. Schetzsle, both of Beverly, are squaring off to succeed retiring Sixth Essex state Representative Mary Grant, a Beverly Democrat. Parisella is an assistant city solicitor in Salem who formerly held that post in Beverly.

Three Billerica residents are contending for the 22d Middlesex seat of retiring Billerica Democrat William G. Greene Jr.: Democrat Kevin P. Conway, Selectman and Republican Marc T. Lombardo, and independent James F. O’Donnell, a Housing Authority member and former selectman.

Several incumbents holding state legislative posts also are facing challenges.

Among them is Saugus Democrat Mark V. Falzone, who faces Republican Donald H. Wong, chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectman, in the race for the Ninth Essex House seat.

In the 13th Essex House district, longtime Democratic incumbent Theodore C. Speliotis of Danvers is being challenged by Danvers Republican and Selectman Daniel C. Bennett.

Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins, a Newburyport Republican, is vying with two foes: Peabody Democrat Damian M. Anketell, a former Essex County correctional officer, and Kevin J. Leach, a Manchester-by-the-Sea independent who is a former Essex County deputy sheriff and former Essex County commissioner.

Two incumbent Democratic US representatives will be battling to return to Washington Tuesday.

In the Sixth District, John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Bill Hudak of Boxford. The race was thrust into the spotlight after Tierney’s wife recently pleaded guilty to federal tax crimes. Hudak has also faced controversy over a sign he placed on his lawn in 2008 likening then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to Osama Bin Laden.

In the Fifth District, Niki Tsongas is facing Republican Jonathan A. Golnik of Carlisle and independents Dale E. Brown of Chelmsford and Robert M. Clark of Berlin.