Published in Sentinel & Enterprise
Submitted by Brandon Robbins
I write today to express my support for Sue Chalifoux Zephir as State Senator of the Worcester and Middlesex District. I had the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Chalifoux Zephir in my final year at Leominster High School. It is because of her that I have found my calling in life, for political science, and have applied to continue my education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the Public Administration program. Since meeting Sue, I have been able to get to know her and see her dedication not only to Leominster, but to the entire district. Sue's dedication has truly shined through in the recent weeks pertaining to the closures of three essential health-care services by UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital.
Sue has stood with the nurses and other elected officials from the district, making it her mission to ensure the hospital knows why residents need these services, and will do whatever she can to make sure they are not closed.
Sue's work on the Leominster City Council is proof that she isn't afraid to ask the hard questions and voice her constituents' concerns. I hope that you will join me on November 6 in supporting Sue for State Senator.
BRANDON L. ROBBINS
Published in Sentinel & Enterprise
Submitted by Sally Cragin
I'm really worried. You may have heard that HealthAlliance is planning to close crucial and needed patient care departments including pediatrics. What you may not know is this:
Sue Chalifoux Zephir is the only candidate for State Senate to lead the charge against this disastrous and potentially catastrophic decision that will hurt local families.
I want Sue as our State Senator to support the health of our kids, family, and community.
I've been on Fitchburg School Committee since 2008, and care deeply about the health and education of our children.
Sue supports civics Education in our schools. Children of Fitchburg and our region need to have a deep and meaningful understanding of civics which is essential for them to grow up to be productive citizens.
Being a member of the Legislature includes working productively with our delegation of elected officials from North Central Massachusetts.
Sue is the only candidate for State Senate who was elected president of the City Council by her peers. They elected her because of her proven ability to collaborate and to lead.
Her work expanding Ginny's Helping Hand has been transformational for many regional families. She brings a strong background of financial smarts, and collaboration and will fight for our district to get needed funds for public school, our seniors, vets, and those with special needs.
From Sentinel & Enterprise
By Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- There might not be a formal debate this election cycle between Republican incumbent state Sen. Dean Tran and Democratic challenger Susan Chalifoux Zephir, but it doesn't mean there won't be a war of words.
On Thursday, Tran fired several social media salvos at his political rival and the Sentinel & Enterprise, the same day a front-page story reported the freshman senator had refused an Oct. 24 invitation to participate in a one-on-one newspaper-sponsored debate with Chalifoux Zephir.
In the post, Tran touted his "incredible achievements" for the district since taking office in January and accused Chalifoux Zephir of running an "extremely dirty and deceitful campaign" during the special election to replace Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan last year.
Tran also wrote in the post: "our local paper fell for their latest stunt."
He added, "The residents should be very suspicious of a candidate who employs political stunts for publicity and the media that sensationalizes this kind of behavior."
John Nadeau, Tran's communications director, said the posted statement was prepared by the senator and members of his staff and re-election campaign.
Asked by a reporter to elaborate on his challenger's "political stunts," Tran pointed to a statement Chalifoux Zephir made at an Aug. 29 press conference held in front of UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital about its proposal to eliminate three health-care services at the Leominster campus and the closure of the urgent-care unit at Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg.
Chalifoux Zephir told a Sentinel & Enterprise reporter during the press conference that she was going to meet with the hospital's vice president of government and community relations, James Leary. She said she saw the meeting as opportunity to discuss impending service reductions.
Tran, who said he was not invited to the press conference, said that in her statement Chalifoux Zephir implied that Leary was in some way involved with organizing the event.
"The insinuation that one of the hospital's executives took part in the planning of the protest is inaccurate," he said.
Chalifoux Zephir denied implying Leary had a hand in organizing the press conference, saying: "Absolutely not, absolutely not, I would never have implied that because that is actually untrue."
She said the press conference, which was called by her, Leominster state Rep. Natalie Higgins and Fitchburg City Council President Michael Kushmerek, "was about as far from a stunt that you can imagine."
"It's not a stunt, I am responding to patients who are my constituents who have real-life concerns about the closure of those services," she said, adding that she's attended other meetings on the reduction of services by the hospital.
As to the charge that Chalifoux Zephir ran an "extremely dirty and deceitful campaign" in 2017, Tran pointed to accusations from state Democrats that he likened transgender people to "sexual predators."
The controversy stemmed from Tran's appearance last year in a televised debate forum when he said he feared "sexual predators" would somehow take advantage of state law that allows transgender people to use public accommodations that match their gender identity.
A few days later, the Massachusetts Democratic Party issued a statement accusing Tran of comparing "members of the transgender community with sexual predators."
Tran at the time, and again on Thursday, denied equating transgender people with sexual predators, and on Thursday reiterated that his then-campaign manager is transgender.
Chalifoux Zephir said the statement was released by the state Democratic party, not by her campaign for state Senate. (At the time, a Sentinel & Enterprise editorial condemned the Democratic Party's misleading statement and chastised Chalifoux Zephir for not clearing the air.)
But Chalifoux Zephir also pointed to a supposed Republican cheap shot -- a December advertisement taken out by the state Republican Party that claimed she "could not be trusted to help working families" because her husband was one of four defendants who paid $1.4 million in back wages to employees after a 2016 Consent Judgment and Order with the U.S. Department of Labor.
The sexual predator equivalency "did not come from my campaign, and you don't hear me complaining about the stuff his supporters say about me," Chalifoux Zephir said.
In his Thursday morning post, Tran reiterated that he had already agreed to "participate in two debate/forums before a third debate was suggested by the Sentinel & Enterprise."
When asked how the Sentinel & Enterprise "sensationalized" Chalifoux Zephir's alleged "stunts," Tran said the paper failed to cross-check what he viewed as his rival's insinuation that Leary was involved in the "protest."
As to his rejecting the newspaper's debate invitation, Tran said he agreed to appear in what organizer Kevin Cormier termed a "debate forum" on FLAP-TV on Oct. 11.
Cormier said that before the debate, he will tell the candidates "the general topics they can expect to asked about" but not a list of questions.
Tran will also participate in an Oct. 3 forum at Leominster High School, where questions that will be posed to the candidates will be provided to them in advance.
Tran said the Sentinel & Enterprise did not tell his campaign what the format of the debate would be before he declined the invitation.
"We don't know what kind of behavior that will take place in such a forum," said Tran in a telephone interview with a reporter. He added that he does believe the newspaper would provide an impartial forum for candidates to debate their platforms.
The Sentinel & Enterprise, with its sister newspaper The Sun of Lowell, co-sponsored two 3rd Congressional District debates for 10 Democratic candidates at Fitchburg State University and Devens Commons, respectively, and participated in at least six other congressional debates throughout the district.
"I don't know what Mr. Tran is alluding to (about impartiality) because we have never heard anything but positive responses from the candidates, the public and our debate partners, which includes Fitchburg State University," said Jim Campanini, the regional editor of both newspapers.
Tran said "the real issue goes back to campaign planning" and that the newspaper extended its invitation after organizers of the Leominster High School and FLAP-TV forums did.
Asked whether he would attend a Sentinel & Enterprise debate on a different date, Tran said the date of the proposed debate isn't the main reason he declined.
Tran said he has already gone "above and beyond" in meeting requests for forums with the two candidates.
"It's not about the time and the dates. It has to do with fitting everything into my schedule, and we agreed to more than what we planned on," he said.
Mayor Dean Mazzarella endorsed Tran this year and said choosing not to participate in the newspaper's debate was Tran's decision.
"He has to feel comfortable and I would say that if he didn't, then it's best to responsibly decline and wait for a forum that he feels gets the issues out," he said.
Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale, a Democrat who has endorsed Tran, said: "It's always a good idea to present yourself to as many voters as possible," adding that declining a debate creates unnecessary distractions during a campaign.
Higgins was critical of Tran's decision, saying legislators have a responsibility to be "accessible and transparent" to their constituents.
"I'm surprised and disappointed," she said. "Voters of the district deserve as many opportunities as possible to learn about their viewpoints and goals and what they're going to do as an elected official."
Published in Sentinel & Enterprised
Submitted by Isabelle Alera
As a School Committee member and a Leominster resident, I would like to express my endorsement for Sue Chalifoux Zephir for State Senate for the Worcester Middlesex District.
I first met Sue when I ran for School Committee a year ago, and her advocacy on behalf of the staff and students blew me away during the city's school budget dilemma. She is an absolute force to be reckoned with in ensuring that students receive a proper public education. She knows that our schools are underfunded and that the Chapter 70 formula is broken. Sue will lead the fight in making sure gateway cities like Leominster receive more state aid by working to fix the outdated formula, so students get the tools they need to succeed. Her support of the Fair Share Amendment is vital for public education as well as transportation throughout the district. She is a strong advocate for affordable higher education and vocational programs so that the future of this country can succeed without years of debt that weigh them down. Sue knows education is a priority and that's why I am so thrilled to support her in her run for State Senate.
From Sentinel & Enterprise
By Cliff Clarke
Incumbent Republican state Sen. Dean Tran has declined an invitation by the Sentinel & Enterprise to participate in a 90-minute debate with his Democratic challenger, Susan Chalifoux Zephir.
"We welcome a chance for the senator to respond to written questions," said Tran's spokesman and campaign manager Austin Cyganiewicz, adding that the senator's busy campaign-event season was also a factor in the decision.
The one-on-one debate moderated by City Editor Cliff Clark was planned for Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in the FATV studio in Fitchburg. The live broadcast would be closed to the public.
The newspaper extended the offer to both Tran and Chalifoux Zephir on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Chalifoux Zephir readily accepted while Tran said he needed to talk to his campaign staff before replying. A week passed before the newspaper emailed Tran for a response. On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Cyganiewicz replied for the senator in a telephone call to the newspaper, saying Tran would not be participating in a formal debate.
Cyganiewicz said the senator, who replaced former Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan by defeating Chalifoux Zephir in a special election in December 2017, wanted to speak to potential voters in the same format used before his election.
During the special election, there was no public debate held between Tran, Chalifoux Zephir, and current Leominster At-large City Councilor Claire Freda, who ran as an unenrolled candidate.
The Sentinel & Enterprise, prior to the special election, supplied each candidate with a list of questions, which each candidate answered. Their replies were published in the newspaper and posted online.
Cyganiewicz said Tran preferred to use that format to inform potential voters about his positions on issues.
He also said the candidate had already agreed to participate in what Cyganiewicz described as two "debates."
The first is scheduled Oct. 3 at Leominster High School where the two candidates will answer questions that each were supplied in advance of the event.
On Oct. 11, the two candidates will appear together for 30 minutes on FLAP TV, a political show that airs on FATV and is hosted by former Leominster City Councilor Kevin Cormier.
Chalifoux Zephir on Wednesday said the Leominster High School event would be better described as an educational forum for the students.
"It's not really a debate," she said.
When Cormier was asked about the format of the FLAP-TV event, he said he will supply the candidates with "general topics they can be expected to be asked about (economic development, women's issues, etc.)."
That, Cormier said, "would give them the opportunity to prepare for the topic, but not rehearse for specific questions."
Chalifoux Zephir's campaign sent out a press release on Wednesday calling on Tran to accept all debates "without conditions."
She said when she accepted the invitation to the high school educational forum, she "thought it was a real debate." Then she learned of the format.
"So far, Dean has only accepted the debate at the high school, where we'll have the questions in advance. We both have years of experience as elected officials and have participated in numerous debates and forums in the past, so I'm unsure why there would be any reservations to accept these invitations," she said in the press release issued by her campaign.
Cyganiewicz said of the two events: "We'll appear at those two debate/forums and we'll be happy to provide written responses" to questions from the newspaper as was done before the special election.
Sentinel & Enterprise Editor Jim Campanini said the Oct. 24 debate will be held at the FATV studios whether or not Tran appears.
"It is disappointing that an incumbent state senator, one of only 40 in Massachusetts, is unwilling to discuss his viewpoints on the issues with another candidate in a democratic debate held for the public's benefit," said Campanini, who is also the editor of The Sun of Lowell.
"We hope Senator Tran reconsiders, but for now the newspaper plans to go ahead with a live telecast offering candidate Chalifoux Zephir the opportunity to answer direct questions on local and state issues without any pre-arranged foundation."
Published in the Leominster Champion
Submitted by Wendy Anderson
To the Editor:
I’m writing to express my support for Sue Chalifoux Zephir for our state senator.
Many people will write in or talk about who they support and why, and there are many reasons to support Sue over her opponent. The one I’d like to talk about is women’s health and a women’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health with her doctor without interference — yes, I’m referring about a women’s right to choose. But it’s really a complete women’s health issue. Sue supports Planned Parenthood, an organization that does so much more than abortion. They are a full service health care provider. Many women rely on them for life-saving cancer screenings they would not be able to get otherwise. They provide access to birth control and education, which common sense connects with lower rates of terminations. Normally we could ignore this at the state level since in 1973 Roe v. Wade was decided. But with the state of national politics and the possibility of Justice Kavanaugh being placed on the Supreme Court, this could once again become an issue decided at the state level.
Sue will be looking out for all of us — men, women, children, rich, poor, and everything in between, straight and/or cis, LGBTQ, everyone! But speaking as a woman, I want her representing me on Beacon Hill because I know she will fight to protect access to health care and a women’s right to make her own choices.
September 11, 2018
Eric Dickson, MD, MHCM, FACEP
President and CEO, UMass Memorial Health Care
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
We are writing to express our deep concerns about UMass Memorial Health Alliance’s response to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) dated August 31, 2018, regarding the planned closures of the pediatric unit and the cardiac and pulmonary rehab units at Leominster Hospital, as well as the urgent-care center at HealthAlliance’s Burbank campus in Fitchburg.
As elected officials representing Leominster, Fitchburg, and other communities that depend on these services, we agree with the Department of Public Health’s letter dated September 10, 2018, regarding your organization’s woefully inadequate engagement with the local community. UMass Memorial Health Alliance has failed to answer numerous serious questions about the impact of these closures on families in the area.
Our specific concerns:
Therefore, we the undersigned elected officials, request a meeting with you at the earliest possible time. We have a duty to ensure that the concerns of the families in our communities are being heard by the health care decision makers. As the chief executive of the UMass Medical, it is incumbent upon you to fully explain these ill-considered and reckless proposals.
Leominster City Councilor Sue Chalifoux Zephir
Fitchburg City Council President Michael Kushmerek
State Representative Stephan Hay
State Representative Natalie Higgins
State Representative Harold Naughton
Mayor of Fitchburg Stephen DiNatale
CC: Deborah Weymouth, FACHE, President and CEO, UMass Memorial Health Alliance-Clinton Hospital Marylou Sudders, Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health & Human Services Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Public Health