Hewett to appear on ballot in state rep. race

Amber Hewett

NEWBURYPORT — Amber Hewett, a local resident seeking to unseat state Rep. James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, this fall, has secured enough signatures to be on the ballot, her campaign announced.

The Democratic candidate collected more than 170 signatures and recently submitted them to the Secretary of State’s Office. Hewett first announced her candidacy in November.

“My volunteer team did an amazing job helping our campaign achieve this goal and I extend deep gratitude to the voters who signed and showed their support across the district,” she said in a statement.

The Hewett campaign, and other candidates for state office, was only required to submit 75 valid signatures, following the state Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in April to cut in half the required number due to challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Hewett’s 170-plus signatures surpasses the original requirement of 150.

Hewett said the election is now about who will best help 1st Essex communities recover from the crisis. The 1st Essex District consists of Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury.

“This election has gotten so much more important,” she said Wednesday in a phone interview.

She acknowledged that COVID-19 has forced a massive switch in terms of how she was planning to run her campaign. Knocking on doors, town hall events and other traditional opportunities to directly meet and speak with voters are no longer options.

“None of those are safe,” Hewett said.

Instead, she is focusing on spreading her message via social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, phone calls and setting up Zoom video town hall-style events. She is also setting up a texting system where voters can sign up to receive updates and other campaign information.

On Tuesday, Hewett is expected to address the Newburyport Democratic City Committee via Zoom at 7 p.m.

Hewett also announced she will hire a campaign manager by the end of the month.

“I’m really excited to staff up,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hewett said she will continue to interact with the public via her work at the Newbury food pantry and through food deliveries to surrounding communities.

“(I’m) really trying to show up wherever I can,” she said.

Kelcourse said Wednesday he began gathering signatures in February. When social distancing advisories were put in place, his campaign began using outdoor tables to amass signatures.

“I’m really excited about the campaign,” said Kelcourse, who is seeking a fourth term, adding that he couldn’t have met that goal without his volunteers.

Asked what his campaign might look like in the face of COVID-19 concerns, Kelcourse said he was focused on serving his constituents. Still, he expressed confidence that he will be re-elected.

Dave Rogers is a staff reporter with the Newburyport Daily News. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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