By Mac Cerullo
---- — GEORGETOWN — After a hard-fought, three-way battle, Lenny Mirra of West Newbury emerged victorious yesterday to clinch the Republic nomination for state representative for the 2nd Essex District.
Mirra will go on to face Democrat Barry Fogel of West Newbury in the November general election,Mirra garnered 1,331 votes, 45 percent of the total, to hold off competitors Bob Cronin of Boxford and Gary Fowler of Georgetown, who finished with 1,120 votes (38 percent) and 501 votes (17 percent) respectively.
The 2nd Essex District includes Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Georgetown, Groveland and parts of Haverhill and Boxford.
“It’s exhilarating,” Mirra said after the numbers came in. “It’s my first race, I’ve never run for office before; it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
With the primary now over, the race to succeed retiring longtime Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, figures to begin in earnest right away. Mirra said he would go back out immediately to continue meeting with voters, something he said was key to his victory.
“We won this campaign mainly by going door to door and meeting with voters face to face, and I’m not going to stop that,” Mirra said. “I do that every single day after work, and I’m going to continue to do that every single day after work, just meet people face to face.”
Mirra plans to focus his campaign on welfare reform, electronic benefit transfer card abuse, pension reform and the Perry amendment.
“It’s about cutting waste so that we can return local aid to where it should be,” Mirra said.
With his opponent in November now clear, Fogel said he sees a sharp contrast between himself and Mirra. He said voters will have a choice to make.
“I know I’m extremely confident in my experience and my expertise is going to be a great benefit to the citizens in this district, and I think that’s what people are looking for,” Fogel said. “Someone with positive ideas and a real understanding of how government works.”
Fogel challenged Mirra to a series of weekly debates leading up to November.
“I would put that out there right now as an invitation for Lenny,” Fogel said. “Let’s see if we can make something like that happen.”
Mirra said he likes his chances of beating Fogel, in large part because he believes the voter demographics within the district are favorable toward electing a Republican.
“I like it because this part of the district is starting to go a little more red, a little more Republican,” Mirra said. “So I really like our chances.”
In yesterday’s primary, Mirra commanded the vote in his hometown of West Newbury, where he garnered 81 percent of the ballots. He also won Newbury, Merrimac and Groveland by solid, but less dominating margins, but didn’t do as well in Boxford and Haverhill, both of which favored Cronin, or in Georgetown, which overwhelmingly supported Fowler, who is a selectman in town.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Cronin arrived at Mirra’s election party to congratulate him on his victory and wish him luck in the final election. Prior to that, he said the key for Mirra will be to continue working hard every day.
“I think a Republican can win this seat,” Cronin said. “If he keeps working hard, I think he can do it.”
Reached at his home after the votes were tallied, Fowler said he was disappointed with the results, but stood by his campaign strategy.
“The three of us ran what I believe was a fair election,” Fowler said. “I would have done absolutely nothing differently.”
Mirra has spent his whole life working in small business and said he entered the race to help other small business owners who are struggling in today’s economy. He has also self-funded his campaign, contributing $45,249 of his own money to his election effort.
“I owe it to a great team,” Mirra said. “I have the best team in the entire commonwealth — hard work and a great team paid off.”