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5 enter race for 8th Essex seat

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

By Dustin Luca, Staff writer for The Salem News

Massachusetts State House (Photo Credits:

Five candidates have now launched bids for the 8th Essex seat that was left vacant earlier this year when longtime state Rep. Lori Ehrlich resigned to take a post with FEMA. Three Marbleheaders and two from neighboring Swampscott, all Democrats, have recently organized with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. They include: Marblehead residents Diann Slavit Baylis, Theresa Tauro, and Jennifer Armini; and Swampscott residents Douglas Thompson and Tristan Smith.

The seat covers the two seaside towns, as well as two voting precincts in Lynn. Ehrlich, a Marblehead Democrat who held the seat for 14 years, was tapped in January by President Joe Biden to be the Region 1 administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

The field of candidates consists of lawyers, coaches, people who’ve worked in politics and those who’ve led employee unions; only one of the Democrats will advance from the Sept. 6 state primary on to election night Nov. 8. No other candidates are on file yet with the OCPF website, as of Friday.

Jennifer Armini

Address: 8 Russell St., Marblehead

Age: 52

Family: Husband Michael and two children (David, 18; and Syndey, 16)

A speechwriter with a background in working with and volunteering with political organizations, Armini is running out of a passion for “bringing people together to solve big problems.” That’s something the seat needs right now, she explained.

“We’re at another inflection point. Our economy and communities have been reeling from the pandemic in the past two-plus years,” she said. “It has created new problems, exacerbated old ones and exposed deep inequities in our society.”

Armini said past experience as a legislative staffer on both Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill gives her “a unique set of experiences” for state legislative work.

“I understand the power of legislation to change people’s lives,” she said. “I know how to use it for the common good, and I’m really good at channeling people’s energy into action. That’s what I’ve done for the 16 years I’ve lived in this district.”

Diann Slavit Baylis

Address: 39 Ticehurst Lane, Marblehead

Age: 55

Family: Husband Angus McQuilken, four children (Matthew, 19; Abraham, 18; Alexandra, 14; and Peter, 11)

An attorney with a focus on immigration and family law, Baylis said she’s also worked within the political world with the Democratic State Committee for six years and is a longtime advocate for the prevention of gun violence.

“I think it’s time for me to step up and offer leadership,” she said. “There’s a lot of important work to do, priorities that I believe I share with many voters in this district.”

While also running to “promote greater civility in our public dialog,” Baylis said she hopes her legal experience — with a fair amount of it constituting pro bono work — will give her an edge in the race.

“I’ve also been involved in the Lawyer of the Day program at Essex Probate Court, where I’d help families — it wouldn’t just be kids — with different matters and restraining orders, custody, child support, things like that,” Baylis said. “So I really think this job would be perfect for me, and I think it’d be very fulfilling.”

Tristan Smith

Address: 376 Humphrey St., Swampscott

Age: 26

By far the youngest candidate in the field, Smith notes that he has some family connections to state politics. “I’ve grown up around the belief that government can do great things,” he said.

“My father was a state rep in the ‘70s (Jim Smith, who held a since-eliminated seat in West Lynn), my cousin was a state rep recently (Steve Walsh, in Lynn and Nahant, in a seat today served by Peter Capano). So this has always been on my mind as a possibility,” Smith said. “I’m running to bring a fresh perspective. I’m really young and hoping that can promote change.”

A Suffolk University Law student, Smith is also the head coach for track and field and cross country at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn.

If elected, he said he would focus on “looking at issues holistically and finding solutions that help multiple groups of people.”

“Getting different interest groups on-board is how we’re going to move the commonwealth forward,” he said. As an example, “there are people who are really interested in public transportation, so let’s invest in cleaner, better running, more efficient public transportation. We all benefit from clear air and clean water.”

Theresa Tauro

Address: 113 Jersey St., Marblehead

Age: 55

Family: Daughters Lizzy (21) and Bridgette (18)

With 12 years working as an administrator for the town’s harbormaster, not to mention president of the Marblehead Municipal Employees Union for the past four years, Tauro said Marblehead is “my community.” She described herself as “a third generation Marblehead resident” who’s spent “my entire life in this town that I love.”

“I have raised my two daughters here, and hope to see my grandchildren raised here as well,” Tauro said. “I have a deep connection to this district and want to represent its residents and protect our natural resources fiercely.”

Tauro, through her union roles, said she has “advocated for the rights of workers and their families through tireless contract negotiations and forming broad coalitions.” Her experience with the harbormaster, however, would really shine in her work as a state lawmaker, she argued.

“I’ve streamlined processes and worked hard to expedite the harbor waiting list and ensure the safety of the community,” Tauro said. “When it comes to protecting our coastline and pushing for green initiatives, I have had first-hand experience with green boating, plastics recycling, and researching the installation of municipal solar docks.”

Douglas Thompson

Address: 59 Winshaw Road, Swampscott

Age: 54

Family: Wife Ingrid Strong, and one daughter

A retired health care executive of 25 years, Thompson said he would go to work full-time as a state representative if elected.

“We need to do much better here in Massachusetts,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to offer based on the work I’ve done as a health care executive, both in the public sector, nonprofits, and the private sector, and making real, large-scale change happen is a unique capability that I’d bring to the table.”

If elected, Thompson said his work in health care will give him an edge in dealing with one of the state’s largest resources, having served as chief financial officer for MassHealth. His career included similar roles at other health care companies, including Network Health and Partners HealthCare.

“I understand the complexities of improving health care and have made major contributions to that over the last 15 years,” Thompson said. “I’d bring that knowledge of building coalitions to effectuate change in other areas like climate change, affordable housing, economic development and education.”

To view the original article, go to

Writer, Dustin Luca | Staff. “5 Enter Race for 8th Essex Seat.” The Salem News. The Salem News, March 21, 2022.

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