By JEFF SHMASE
PEABODY — Voters sent a resounding message of their intent to return Tom Walsh to the State House. The Democrat, who served as the 12th Essex state representative from 1987-1995, easily won the special election primary held on Tuesday, overwhelming challengers Jim Moutsoulas and Craig Welton.
Walsh, who currently serves as a city councilor-at-large, will face Republican Stephanie Peach and Christopher Gallagher in the final election, slated for Tuesday, March 1, the same day as the Massachusetts presidential primary. Peach won the Republican primary by 110 votes over challenger Jaclyn Corriveau. Gallagher, who is registered as an unenrolled candidate, did not face any primary opposition.
Walsh won 13 of the 15 precincts in the city, collecting 1,672 votes. Moutsoulas, the Ward 3 city councilor, finished well back with 537 tallies, while first-time candidate Welton was third with 459 votes.
Peach, in contrast, won with 568 votes, compared to Corriveau who received 458.
Only 7.4 percent of Peabody’s eligible voters cast ballots.
Speaking at his post-election party at the Wardhurst Restaurant, Walsh reiterated his stance that he will be a strong and effective representative who will hit the ground running should he be fortunate enough to win. He said Peabody has lacked continuous representation in recent years, given the retirement of state Sen. Fred Berry, the passing of state Rep. Joyce Cole, and Leah Cole’s decision to abruptly resign midway through her term.
“From day one, I think I can make a difference,” Walsh said. “I know the building and how things work and I will work exclusively for Peabody.”
Among the issues he would work on include being vocal in his opposition to the proposed gas pipeline that would wind through sections of Peabody, working on solutions to the opioid crisis and working collaboratively with the mayor and the city to compete for state funds.
Peach said she had a good feeling going into the election that the results would be favorable and her gut proved to be correct.
While admitting that she faces an uphill battle against Walsh and Gallagher, Peach said she anticipates getting the full support of a popular Republican governor and the party.
“We ran a grassroots campaign out of my house and with the support of the governor and others, I think we will get our message out and have an effective plan,” she said.
For the past two years Peach has worked as a legislative aide to Cole, and like Walsh, believes she would make an immediate impact on Beacon Hill, should she be elected. Peach said Peabody is a blue collar city that, in recent years, has supported Republican candidates for state and federal office, including Scott Brown and Charlie Baker.
“I think Peabody is sick of a one-party system on Beacon Hill and that was evident when Leah Cole was elected twice to this district. People are looking for a return on their investment with the taxes they pay to the state and I think I can do that.”