NORTH ANDOVER – They went to Jaime’s Restaurant expecting to attend a victory party.
Instead they heard a concession speech from state Rep. David Torrisi, whose defeat in yesterday’s Democratic primary shocked just about everybody, including the winner, Diana DiZoglio of Methuen.
DiZoglio carried every community in the district except North Andover and beat Torrisi by nearly 200 votes.
“I am so grateful for the time and energetic, consistent effort that my family, friends and neighbors have contributed to this effort. We really can make a difference. The quote that I live by is do what you can where you are with what you have. We have done just that,” DiZoglio told The Eagle-Tribune.
While Torrisi, first elected to the House in 1998, said he was “disappointed” at the outcome, he seemed to take his defeat like a good sport.
Holding his 5-week-old daughter Ella, he said, “This is what defines me. I love being a dad.”
Meanwhile, over at the Mogador on Merrimack Street in Methuen, an exultant DiZoglio, 29, basked in the glow of a victory that was hard-fought – and a surprise.
“I can’t believe it,” said DiZoglio, who was making her first run for political office.
“She didn’t have any money,” several supporters remarked. Indeed, DiZoglio knocked on an estimated 4,400 doors in the sprawling 14th Essex District, which encompasses five precincts in North Andover, three precincts in Methuen, another three in Lawrence and just one in Haverhill.
If a voter was not home, she would leave a handwritten note, asking for the person to consider voting for her Sept. 6.
“Money talks, Diana walks,” DiZoglio joked, displaying the sole of a substantially worn-out sneaker.
Torrisi acknowledged DiZoglio’s determined effort at Jaime’s.
“I do want to congratulate Diana. She worked very hard,” Torrisi said.
While Torrisi carried his hometown 942 to 402, DiZoglio clobbered him in Methuen, 767 to 265. She took Lawrence 324 to 189 and the district’s sole precinct in Haverhill 107 to 39.
“Methuen came in big,” Torrisi noted.
Torrisi, 43, said it remains to be seen what he’ll be doing come January, when his term expires. He is an attorney, though so far he hasn’t practiced law.
His family has owned and operated Jackson Lumber for more than 50 years and Torrisi works for the company. He said he will likely take some time off with his young family and eventually decide what his next move will be.
For DiZoglio, the next move is continuing her race for state representative into the Nov. 6 general election, when she will face her Republican opponent, Karin Rhoton, a former North Andover School Committee member. Rhoton was unopposed in her primary.
Rhoton said she is not surprised she’ll face DiZoglio instead of Torrisi.
“I think people wanted a change,” she said. Rhoton said her experience “makes me a better pick.”
DiZoglio, who was chief of staff to the president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts before launching her campaign, said she is not taking anything for granted in her race against Rhoton.
While DiZoglio labored long and hard to claim the Democratic nomination, friends and family members also contributed to her success.
“Family, friends and community” made the difference for her, said her cousin Nick DiZoglio, who helped run the campaign. Their uncle Joseph DiZoglio, a retired Lawrence police officer who is 83 but could easily pass for 63 or younger, accompanied the candidate on many of her door-to-door hikes.
“She lost 18 pounds,” Joseph DiZoglio said. His niece’s “very personable” nature helped win her many supporters, he added.
Karla Chavez, who attended Fellowship Christian Academy in Methuen with DiZoglio when they were much younger, said her friend also earned support because she’s a good listener.
Many of the 14 Essex’s voters, especially in the Lawrence precincts, speak Spanish as their first language. DiZoglio majored in Spanish at Wellesley College and speaks the language fluently.
Chavez and her parents, Carlos and Ofilia Chavez, all of Booth Road, Methuen, said DiZoglio’s linguistical skills helped her, but that her charisma and genuineness sealed the deal with many voters.
Throughout her campaign, DiZoglio stressed her working class background. She picked up a number of endorsements from unions, including Local 175 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
Michael Gagliardi, business manager for the local, said the endorsement
was a “risky” move on the part of the union, but he and other members believe DiZoglio “shares the values of working families in the district.”