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.