Throughout my special election campaign for the Massachusetts Senate last year, people spoke to me about their inability to make ends meet at the minimum wage, how the cost of a college education was keeping them from getting ahead, and about being forced to choose between the job they need and the sick child they love. People should not have to work two or three jobs to earn a living which leaves little time for family.
Solutions to these problems are before us in the coming year. Paid family and medical leave for all employees is slated to be on the November ballot. An increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour could be up to the voters as well. And we’ll vote on the Fair Share Amendment to provide much needed funding to invest in our transportation system and fund our public schools.
Today, I took out nomination papers from the Secretary of State’s office and will again be a candidate for the Massachusetts Senate. I want to help move North Central Massachusetts forward and make sure that all families can get ahead.
I hope you’ll join me in this important campaign - we have a lot of work to do to make Massachusetts work for everyone.
Printed in the Sentinel and Enterprise.
I'm writing to lend my support to Sue Chalifoux Zephir in her bid to become our next state Senator.
I have known Sue for many years as a neighbor, friend and city councilor. She has served our city well and I know she will do the same as state Senator.
Sue is a strong supporter of education and for increasing its funding in Boston. I believe that she will work hard to improve the Chapter 70 funding formula that will benefit all schools.
Her support of the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment will help increase funding for transportation which is taking a huge amount of money out of the budget process for all towns and cities. She also advocates for reducing the cost of higher education so that graduates are not faced with a large debt that will take years to pay off which this amendment also supports.
Her belief in adequate funding of special education that would ensure all schools are in compliance and all students receive the education that they deserve is commendable.
Please join me in supporting Sue Chalifoux Zephir on Dec. 5.
Ward 4 School Committee Representative
Printed in the Sentinel and Enterprise.
No matter which holidays you may celebrate, this time of year is about family. Family defines the holiday season for me. Family also defines how I approach important decisions, like who should represent us in the state Senate.
Sue Chalifoux Zephir is the only candidate who supports a $15 minimum wage, because no one who works full-time should struggle to feed their family. She also is the only candidate who will stand up for women's health care access and our right to make our own decisions about our families, no matter how much you make or what health insurance you have. Sue is also a champion of paid family and medical leave, so working women and men don't risk losing their jobs for caring for their loved ones.
One of the most important things we can do for our families is to make sure we elect leaders who will stand up for us. On Dec. 5, those of us in the Worcester and Middlesex district have the opportunity to vote for a state Senator will put working families first.
Printed in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
Following the resignation in August of Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, representing the Worcester Middlesex District, the campaign cycle is winding down and voters will finally choose her replacement Tuesday, Dec. 5. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Berlin, Bolton, precincts 1 and 2 in Clinton, Lancaster and Sterling. The district also includes Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Townsend and Westminster.
With a primary held in November, the ballot is down to four choices: Democrat Susan Chalifoux Zephir, Republican Dean Tran, Green-Rainbow candidate Charlene DiCalogero and Unenrolled Claire Freda.
Susan Chalifoux Zephir
Chalifoux Zephir has been a former Ward 4 city councilor in Leominster, now serving as an at-large councilor. A former board member of the Leominster Education Foundation, she is executive director of Ginny’s Helping Hand, a nonprofit food pantry.
“I’m running for State Senate because we need to do more to address the big challenges facing the families of North Central Massachusetts. From investing in our roads and public schools, to tackling the high cost of prescription drugs and making quality health care more affordable, I’ve put forward practical, paid-for plans on the big issues we face,” she said. “I want to go to the State Senate to bring good 21st century jobs in clean energy and medical device manufacturing to our region, and to make sure that anyone seeking treatment for their addiction can get it.”
Chalifoux Zephir said she understands the needs of small towns.
“As the director of local food pantry Ginny’s Helping Hand, I’ve helped families from all of the towns in this district, and I understand the unique needs of our small towns, like the high cost of school transportation and the importance of protecting our open space,” she said. She has been endorsed by state representatives Harold Naughton and Kate Hogan, who represent Berlin, Bolton, Clinton and Lancaster in the district. “I have great working relationships with them, and in the State Senate I would have regularly scheduled meetings with them and with local officials to keep on top of each towns’ issues.”
Chalifoux Zephir outlined some of her issues going forward.
“As a city councilor, I’ve seen our kids suffer from the lack of state funding for our schools, and our roads and public transportation clearly need investment, too,” she said. “I enthusiastically support the Fair Share Amendment, which would tax the portion of a person’s annual income that is over $1 million and dedicate $2 billion each year to investments in education and transportation. That ironclad dedication would be in the text of our Constitution. As your State Senator, I would fight to pass the Fair Share Amendment, and work with local officials to make sure those funds reach our schools and our roads.”
Printed in the Sentinel & Enterprise.
LEOMINSTER -- Sue Chalifoux Zephir spent one recent morning writing thank-you letters beside an electric heater in her office, feet away from the counter where each day dozens queue for food assistance.
Like the cost of clothes and home goods also sold at Ginny's Helping Hand, the nonprofit food pantry of which she is the executive director, she keeps the heat in the building on low.
It's a measure to keep the organization she directs just profitable enough "to keep the lights on and employees paid," and let the rest go to helping those who come to the food pantry.
Her mission, Chalifoux Zephir explained, is to help feed people in need across the district she hopes to represent as the next state senator for the Worcester-Middlesex District.
"The things that I see day in and day out, those are the reasons I decided to run for the seat," she said, naming opioids and a "fair" minimum wage as among the priority issues. "Seeing the kinds of things that people are struggling with across North Central Massachusetts really informed my decision to run."
The notes she was writing were addressed to those whose donations helped Ginny's Helping Hand give out 404 Thanksgiving meals.
Chalifoux Zephir's Senate run as the Democratic nominee comes after more than a decade serving on the Leominster City Council off and on.
Politically active since she campaigned for former Boston Mayor Kevin White in his campaign for governor in 1970, she was elected to serve as Ward 4 city councilor driven by a desire to impact local affairs.
"You can be involved on the sidelines, but when it really comes down to making decisions, I really would like a seat at the table," she said.
She and her three siblings were raised by a single mother in an Irish Catholic family in Leominster. She attended St. Leo Catholic School in the city and is a graduate of Leominster High School. Chalifoux Zephir sent her three children to the Applewild Elementary School and St. Bernard's Central Catholic School in Fitchburg.
After graduating from Assumption College in Worcester, Chalifoux Zephir got a job handling group insurance claims at the Fortune 500 insurance company Prudential, then moved to a corporate-benefits job in the now-closed Digital Equipment Corporation.
After the birth of her first daughter, Elizabeth, Chalifoux Zephir enrolled in a yearlong business school "intensive" program at Simmons, graduating in August 1985.
She juggled school with first-time motherhood with support from her husband, Ed Zephir, the plastics-business owner whom she met in high school.
A two-decade career at WGBH television in Boston followed. She started with an entry-level job handling payroll and other tasks, and climbed to become a post-production business manager in the science division.
She took time off from work after the birth of her third daughter, Julia, then returned to help oversee the division that created companion websites to WGBH shows.
Today, Chalifoux Zephir, 62, said she sees a state that is home to worsening income inequality. It's why she supports a $15 minimum wage, she said. If the effort to increase the minimum wage is approved as a state ballot initiative in 2018, it would mean a raise for the two part-time and two full-time employees at Ginny's.
Among her top issues are increasing access to affordable health care, stimulating local economies and transportation networks, and changing the way the state helps to fund public schools.
Asked what accomplishment she has made in public life that she takes pride in most, Chalifoux Zephir cited Leominster's school budget crisis this year.
"The mayor cut the budget arbitrarily and submitted it to the City Council," she said.
Chalifoux Zephir responded by talking to school principals, "gathering and collecting the facts" from those intimate with the impact of budget cuts. She presented her findings to the committee, and the mayor "ended up finding $2 million to put back into the budget," Chalifoux Zephir said.
She said that understanding why people hold different political beliefs from hers will allow her to work collaboratively if elected to the 40-member state Senate.
Her own vision of government, she said, was formed as a "a very little kid" watching the election of President John F. Kennedy.
She recalls his can-do attitude, his sense of optimism and opportunity, and the compact he strengthened between the government and its people to provide public education, public safety and transportation linking people and businesses.
"Politics is a way to really advance a positive agenda for everybody," she said. "It's a way to engage people. It's a way to build and develop community. And it's a way to work together with people who share your values,"
Occupation: Executive director, Ginny's Helping Hand; Leominster Councilor at large
Education: Leominster High School; Assumption College, bachelor's degree in political science; Simmons, master's degree in business administration
Family: Husband, Ed Zephir; daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Ian Fraser; daughter Coco and her husband, Bill Clark; daughter Julia Zephir; granddaughter Winnie Clark.
Famous person you'd like to meet: Abraham Lincoln
Last book read: "Hamilton" by Ron Chernow
Favorite all-time movie: "It's a Wonderful Life"
Campaign message in 15 words or less: Making health care affordable, investing in transportation and public education, creating 21st-century manufacturing jobs
Printed in the Sentinel & Enterprise.
I write to ask my fellow voters in the Worcester and Middlesex District to support Sue Chalifoux Zephir in the special State Senate election on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Though Sue and I had differences of opinion during the preliminary election campaign earlier this fall, I was always impressed by her intellect, tenacity and demonstrated commitment to the needs of our district. We will benefit from having her represent us in Boston.
Sue will work hard to build cohesion among our regional legislative delegation in support of the district's needs, fighting for access to healthcare and economic development. She will make our collective voices heard on Beacon Hill, and our district deserves nothing less.
Please join me in casting your ballot for Sue Chalifoux Zephir on Tuesday.
Printed in the Sentinel & Enterprise.
I've known and worked with Sue Chalifoux Zephir for six years. The guilt-by-association claims made by the Sentinel & Enterprise in its editorial (Sunday, Nov. 26) toward her are unfounded.
Sue is a smart, independent public servant who has served the people of this region for decades. Sue has repeatedly demonstrated her independence during her years on the Leominster City Council and throughout her campaign for State Senate.
She was the first candidate in the race to promise to step down from her City Council seat should she be elected to the State Senate. She promises not to accept the recent legislative pay raise.
Sue wants to get control of skyrocketing healthcare costs and improve access to healthcare. She is the only candidate who refuses to accept campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. And, Sue supports a woman's right to choose.
Sue is also supports the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment and will fight for the revenue to fully fund our declining public schools and make our community colleges tuition free.
Sue saved our local food pantry, Ginny's Helping Hand, from the brink of bankruptcy. At Ginny's, she sees every day the struggles many seniors and families face. In the State Senate, Sue Chalifoux Zephir will be a leader who we all can rely on too.
Printed in the Sentinel & Enterprise.
The Sentinel & Enterprise asked the four candidates seeking the state Senate seat in the Worcester and Middlesex District a series of 10 questions on regional and state issues. This is the fifth installment of their replies.
The special election is Tuesday, Dec. 5.
What idea(s) do you have to make a state public college education more affordable for in-state students?
Sue Chalifoux Zephir, Democrat -- In today's economy, a high school diploma isn't enough for our young people to find good-paying 21st-century jobs. Every student who graduates high school should have an affordable path to the career of their choice. I've announced a plan to guarantee of two years of free post-high school education (public college or vocational training), funded by the Fair Share Amendment.
Yes or no, should sanctuary cities and towns be subject to a loss of state funding for local law enforcement initiatives?
Sue Chalifoux Zephir, Democrat -- Our local law enforcement officers are already stretched thin dealing with local issues and the opioid epidemic. They shouldn't be deputized as federal agents of Donald Trump's deportation force, and their funding shouldn't be threatened by politicians with an extreme anti-immigrant agenda. We should let them do their work building trust in our communities and protecting public safety.
Printed in The Landmark.
A campaign that started just before Labor Day will end next week, when voters across the Worcester & Middlesex State Senate District head to the polls for a special election.
Two Leominster at-large city councilors, Democrat Susan Chalifoux Zephir and unenrolled candidate Claire Freda, along with Republican Dean Tran, a Fitchburg city councilor, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Charlene DiCalogero of Berlin are looking to follow in the footsteps of former Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, to win the Dec. 5 election and represent the Worcester & Middlesex District at the State House.
Flanagan resigned in August after Gov. Charlie Baker appointed her to the state Cannabis Control Commission, which will regulate the recreational and medical marijuana industries in Massachusetts.
Chalifoux Zephir is executive director of Ginny’s Helping Hand, Inc., a community based food pantry in Leominster, as well as a trustee for the Leominster Public Library and a board member of the Leominster Education Foundation. She previously served on the Board of Directors for Our Father’s House in Fitchburg, which provides emergency and transitional housing to those in need. She worked for many years as a production and business manager at the WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston.
In separate interviews on her cable access TV show “Representing Leominster,” state Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) asked the candidates looking to represent Leominster, Sterling and nine other communities in the state Senate what issue they want to work on if elected.
Chalifoux Zephir replied it would be opioid addiction.
“At this point, this opioid epidemic is just critical,” she said. “We have to address it immediately.”
Asked how she would like to address it, Chalifoux Zephir replied, “I think we have to get out into the middle schools and really start educating people. I think education and prevention is really where we have to start … and then in terms of treatment we have to make sure that when people need a bed, that they can find one. And not just for the immediate need, not just for the immediate detox. We need to have those CSS beds, the stabilization beds that take people into longer-term treatment.”
Polls for the Special Election open at 7 a.m. at the Houghton School Gym, 32 Boutelle Road.
Out-of-town voters or those unable to vote on Dec. 5 may request an absentee ballot application by email, by phone or by coming in person to the Sterling Town Clerk’s Office, Butterick Municipal Building, 1 Park St. Absentee ballots are due by noon on Dec. 4.
As we enter the final week of the campaign, we've created this video about what Sue heard on the campaign trail and what she wants to get done in the State Senate. Please watch, share, and remember to vote on Tuesday, December 5th!