By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — How the Region Voted: 2nd Essex House
WEST NEWBURY — For the first time in more than two decades, the 2nd Essex District representative seat will be held by a Republican.
Lenny Mirra of West Newbury completed his rise from small businessman to Beacon Hill last night, beating Democratic opponent and fellow West Newbury resident Barry Fogel with 52 percent of the vote.
Mirra won by 1,119 votes, collecting a total of 12,626 votes compared to Fogel’s 11,507. Once the final results from Byfield came in at 9:55 p.m., Mirra stood up at his victory party at Coach’s Rock Pond Pub in Georgetown and addressed his supporters.
Mirra will succeed Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, the famously bipartisan representative who is stepping down after representing the 2nd Essex District for the past 18 years. The district includes West Newbury, Newbury, Merrimac, Georgetown, Groveland and parts of Haverhill and Boxford.
“We were up against a very big powerful machine, and we beat the machine today,” Mirra told his supporters after the results came in. “We had to work twice as hard and had to do twice as much, and I couldn’t have done this without the best team in the state.”
Mirra performed well all across the district, winning Georgetown, Groveland, Boxford and, most significantly, both candidates’ hometown of West Newbury, where he came out ahead by several hundred votes, 1,431 to 1,185. His win there seemed to set the tone early on.
Fogel performed stronger in Merrimac and Newbury, where he won by several hundred votes in both communities, along with Haverhill, which he took by 32 votes. But it was not enough to overcome the big advantage that Mirra had elsewhere.
“It’s just exhilarating; this is the most exciting day of my life,” Mirra said. “We have a lot of things to tidy up, I have two businesses I have to put in other people’s hands right now, but I’m looking forward to doing the people’s business and it’s going to be a full-time job.”
Mirra entered the general election season riding a wave of momentum after he emerged from a hard-fought, three-way primary race for the Republican nomination, beating out Robert Cronin of Boxford and Gary Fowler of Georgetown.
But Fogel, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination, built his own momentum by emphasizing his credentials as a lawyer who understands the legislative process, while casting his opponent as unqualified for the job.
After the race, Fogel said he was disappointed with the result, but was proud of the campaign he ran, saying the fact that the 2nd Essex District tends to lean Republican, along with the several key endorsements Mirra received, were probably the main factors in the outcome. He said it likely helped Mirra considerably to have the endorsement of the district’s respected state Sen. Bruce Tarr.
“That may well have been the difference,” Fogel said.
The two candidates faced off in three debates during the month of October in Boxford, Haverhill and Georgetown. In each, the candidates presented their visions on the economy, government regulation, state policy and what they intend to do if elected.
Fogel presented himself as a pragmatic lawmaker who believes Massachusetts is on the right track, while Mirra championed himself as a voice for small business who would fight to cut wasteful spending and bring about a healthier environment for businesses to operate in.
The campaign was largely a cordial affair until a mailer sent out by Fogel’s campaign last week drew accusations of dirty politics and the threat of litigation from Mirra.
The mailer sent by Fogel’s campaign to voters cited a Fox 25 report from February 2010 saying that a trucking division of Mirra’s family-owned company received the second-lowest rating in the state for safety from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Mirra said the rating was based on incomplete data and was later updated to give Mirra Co. a satisfactory rating. He said Fogel knew that before he disseminated the mailer, and that he did so because it was too close to election day for Mirra to be able to adequately respond.
Fogel defended the mailer by saying he asked Mirra for documented evidence that the federal agency’s rating had been updated like he claimed, but never heard back from him. Mirra has released a company profile indicating that Mirra Co. currently has a satisfactory rating from the FMCSA, but so far, no reports specifically dealing with 2010 have been released.
It’s unclear at this point whether the mailer controversy had any impact on the election results.
Regardless, Mirra said he is looking forward to the next stage of his political career.
“I look forward to being the people’s servant,” Mirra said. “I work for the voters and I work for the entire district.”