Area candidates for legislative and regional offices have begun the six-week dash to the Nov. 2 final election, with several battles for state House and Senate seats promising to capture the local spotlight.
The general election campaign season officially got underway this week after Tuesday's primary, which included only one contest in this region.
In the Fifth Congressional District, which includes Haverhill, Thomas P. Tierney of Framingham won the Republican nomination, defeating Ilana Freedman of Billerica, 4,567 votes to 2,860. His victory earns Tierney the right to take on six-term US Representative Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat, in the final election.
Tierney's win came amid sadness over the loss of his mother, Helen Tierney, who died at a Topsfield nursing home Sept. 11 at the age of 95.
He said the outcome of the primary shows that voters see him as ''a guy that is knowledgeable and even more so they see a guy with resolve and a guy with passion on the issues that they are in agreement with. And they see someone who might actually have a chance if given the opportunity to create the laws we need."
Tierney has pledged to try to protect Social Security and seek passage of laws he says are needed in medical care financing and the health care delivery system.
An actuarial consultant, Tierney lost a Democratic primary bid for the Fifth District seat in 2000, and a Republican primary bid for the seat in 2002.
Freedman said she was disappointed at the outcome, because ''I was looking forward to being able to have a very engaging dialogue with Congressman Meehan. I'm disappointed that won't happen."
But, she added, ''I have great respect for the voters. This was a decision of the voters, so I accept it. I'm now looking forward to what I hope will be an active campaign between Tom Tierney and Marty Meehan."
Among the contests certain to command local interest is the First Essex and Middlesex District battle between state Senator Bruce E. Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Paul M. McGeary of Gloucester.
The district includes Boxford, Essex, Georgetown, Gloucester, Groveland, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Middleton, Newbury, North Reading, Rockport, Rowley, Wenham, West Newbury, Wilmington, and part of North Andover.
Tarr is a popular five-term senator, and the district has not been won by a Democrat in many years. But McGeary is campaigning actively. A first-time candidate who was energized by Howard Dean's presidential bid, McGeary works as manager of publishing systems at The Boston Globe.
GOP challengers are taking on incumbent Democrats in four area state House districts.
State Representative Barbara A. L'Italien of Andover is battling Maria Marasco of Andover in the 18th Essex District, which includes parts of Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Haverhill, Methuen, and North Andover.
L'Italien is seeking her second term. Marasco, who was a state official in the Weld and Cellucci administrations, lost bids for state Senate in 1994 and 2002.
In the Second Essex District, West Newbury incumbent Harriett L. Stanley faces Robert V. Finneran of Newbury in a rematch of their 2002 race, won by Stanley.
A former investment banker and Merrimac town treasurer, Stanley is in her fifth term on Beacon Hill. Finneran is a local attorney. The district includes Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, Rowley, West Newbury, and parts of Georgetown and Haverhill.
First Essex incumbent Michael A. Costello of Newburyport has opposition from Erford C. Fowler, a Newburyport city councilor.
Costello, a lawyer, is seeking his second term on Beacon Hill. Fowler took early retirement last October from his job as support programs coordinator for the state Department of Veterans Services. He earned a spot on the final ballot by running a successful write-in/sticker campaign in the Republican primary -- he received 660 votes, according to Fowler, well above the minimum 150 needed. The district includes Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury.
In the Third Essex, which includes most of Haverhill, incumbent Brian S. Dempsey is challenged by Maureen M. Corbett. A former two-term city councilor, Dempsey is in his seventh term on Beacon Hill. Corbett, a self-employed certified public accountant, lost bids for mayor of Haverhill in 1997, 1999, and 2001.
In the First Essex District Senate race, Democratic incumbent Steven A. Baddour of Methuen will vie with Republican challenger Leo T. Martin of Haverhill. The district includes Amesbury, Haverhill, Merrimac, Methuen, Salisbury, and part of North Andover.
Baddour, Senate chairman of the Legislature's Transportation Committee, first won his seat in a special election in January, 2002. He then retained the seat in the fall election that year. Martin is a political newcomer.
There are two area congressional races.
In addition to the Fifth District contest between Meehan and Thomas Tierney, there is a two-way race in the Sixth District, pitting US Representative John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat, against Republican Stephen P. O'Malley of Nahant. Tierney, a lawyer , is seeking his fifth term on Capitol Hill. O'Malley, also a lawyer, is a first-time candidate.
Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins, a Newburyport Republican, is being challenged by Salem Democrat and Essex County correctional officer William F. Murley of Salem.
Cousins, a former state representative and Newburyport city councilor, was appointed to the sheriff's position by Governor Weld in 1996. He went on to win the seat in 1998. Murley is a political newcomer.