23 Aug 2014
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Who Won Last Night's Debate: Dunne, Cole or Gravel?

Who did you think shined the most in Wednesday night's debate between the candidates for State Representative in the 12th Essex District?

Who Won Last Night's Debate: Dunne, Cole or Gravel? Who Won Last Night's Debate: Dunne, Cole or Gravel? Who Won Last Night's Debate: Dunne, Cole or Gravel?

[Editor's Note: The article has been updated to reflect a correction on one of the panelists' names.]

The three candidates for State Representative in Peabody traded a few jabs Wednesday night in a debate at City Hall sponsored by the Salem News and the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce.

In particular, the debate became more heated when the subject of campaign finances came up.

Republican Leah Cole turned her answer to a question into another question to Dave Gravel, who is unenrolled, asking how he could say he's reticent to raise taxes when he's politically supported by the Mass. Teachers Association, a big proponent of the governor's spending plan.

Gravel retorted that he's the first non-Democrat to be endorsed by the union and that the support was entirely based on his record on education. And unlike Cole, he said, all his campaign money comes from Peabody, not Marlborough.

In her closing remarks, Cole then again spoke to the fact that most of her financial support comes from all over the state, not Peabody.

She said a lot of people across the state are concerned about their taxes possibly going up and are excited about someone who is going to stand up for them. Cole said their money helped her spread her message in Peabody, where she didn't have the connections of her more well-established opponents.

Cole, Gravel and Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne spent much time early in the debate on welfare reform and EBT cards. In the end, they all essentially agreed reform was necessary to prevent fraud and abuse of the system.

The difference was that Cole adamantly argued that abuse was rampant throughout the system, whereas Dunne and Gravel said the vast majority of people receiving benefits were doing so legitimately.

"My 17-year-old knows more than she does," said Mary Lou Geiger of Leah Cole.

Geiger, who's supporting Dunne, attended the debate and said she wasn't impressed with Cole's performance. Further, she worried that enough voters would split between Dunne and Gravel to allow Cole to sneak into the seat.

The questions posed by the panel -- Billy Woods, Michelle Talisman and DECA's Austin Solimine -- covered local aid, the state budget, taxes, campaign finances, welfare benefits, senior services, education, jobs, small business growth, affordable housing, flooding and even domestic use of military drones.

The debate was broadcast live on cable by Peabody Access Telecommunications and also streamed online. Patch readers also participate in a live chat during the hourlong debate and you can find that transcript here.

So what did you think? Were you at City Hall or did you watch from home? Who do you think won the debate? Tell us why and some of your favorite moments.

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