Published in The Item
Submitted by Mary Richards
Sue Chalifoux Zephir has years of experience in government, serving on the Leominster City Council for eight years. She helped raise monies for a library renovation project, secured a long-awaited raises for city retirees and continues her work in the battle against opioid addiction
Sue narrowly lost to Dean Tran in a special election. She is taking on this race again to serve the people of the district, as she has her city, with distinction. Tran now has a record, voters can compare. Unfortunately, he refused to debate.
Sue supports fully-funding public schools and opposes Charter Schools that drain those resources. Tran failed to seek funding for K-12 local schools, shortchanging his district. Our kids deserve better.
Sue supports money to fix our local roads and bridges, Tran did not seek funding for one shovel-ready highway project.
Sue supports vocational education and skills training programs to give our workers increased opportunities and good-paying jobs. Tran failed to seek funding for these programs.
Sue supports bringing civics back into schools, Tran voted against it.
Tran was the only elected official who voted against the Red Flag Amendment, allowing “temporary” removal of guns from homes when that person might be a danger to themselves or others. Think about a suicidal family member or domestic assault victims.
Tran has been taken to task for exaggerating his claims relative to the money he said he delivered to the district by former state senator Jen Flanagan, telling Tran to start telling the truth. “Elected public service is not a one man show, for anyone.”
Some people like to throw the word, “roots” about their candidate. People from Clinton know the difference. Sue’s grandfather, Michael and Mary (O’Toole) Kittridge immigrated to Clinton from Louisburgh. Michael drove to the paper mills in Fitchburg. His brother, a union president, instilled in Sue the value of treating workers with fairness and dignity. Those are real Clinton “roots.”
Chairman, Clinton Democratic Town Comittee
Published in The Leominster Champion
Submitted by Nona Ojala
To the Editor:
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 am positive she will do the same as state senator. Sue is a passionate, intelligent woman with a strong conviction of what is right for all citizens.
Sue is a strong supporter of education, and will continue that support in Boston. She is very concerned and will be a strong advocate for increased funding for education. I believe that she will work hard to improve the Chapter 70 funding formula that will benefit all schools. 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.
Her belief in adequate funding of special education 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 with a vote for her on Nov. 6.
Ward 4 School Committee Representative
From the Sentinel & Enterprise
Written by Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- The Nov. 6 finish line nearly in sight, incumbent state Sen. Dean Tran and his challenger, Leominster City Councilor Sue Chalifoux Zephir, went toe to toe in a fiery debate Wednesday night where agreement on the facts could be hard to find and political differences were clear.
Both vying to represent the Worcester and Middlesex District, among the few things that Republican Tran and Democrat Chalifoux Zephir agreed on at the Sentinel & Enterprise and Fitchburg Access Television-sponsored debate dealt with vices - legal and otherwise.
Both said they do not support safe injection sites, and when asked by debate moderator, Sentinel & Enterprise City Editor Cliff Clark, whether they would patronize the state's recently legalized casinos and cannabis dispensaries, both said no.
While their stances on issues overlapped on some questions, that was largely where the agreement stopped.
Each candidate referred to the other exclusively as "my opponent." Tran on a few occasions said he secured $29.6 million in funding for the district in the past seven months, an assertion Chalifoux Zephir challenged, saying at one point that Tran plays "fast and loose with the facts."
She said 2 percent of the $29.6 million was included in the annual budget, and the remaining 98 percent was in bond bills whose projects may never be funded, depending on the state's ability to borrow money.
A seemingly innocuous question that asked the candidates to finish the sentence, "In order to create a stable, job-producing, wage-driving economy, North Central Massachusetts businesses need ...," produced testy exchanges between the two.
After first completing the sentence with the word "me," Tran accused Chalifoux Zephir of being in charge of payroll at her husband's company when it was "sued for wage theft," asking, "how can you rely on a person like that for any kind of economic work?"
Chalifoux Zephir turned to look at Tran and issued a forceful denial, saying Tran needs to "check his facts," calling his claim a "lie" and "categorically false," adding that she does not work for her husband's company and was never in charge of payroll.
Both candidates said they would not need to "mend political fences in the region's best interest" because they already have good relationships with state and local lawmakers.
Chalifoux Zephir pointed to her endorsements from five local state representatives and Congressman Jim McGovern as proof, while Tran pointed out two Democrats who endorsed him, Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale and former state Sen. Bob Antonioni.
Chalifoux Zephir said "my Republican opponent has not been endorsed by a single members of the delegation" and Tran called the endorsements she cited "partisan." He claimed she "doesn't get along" with her own colleagues on the City Council, another assertion Chalifoux Zephir denied with the caveat that she "disagreed loudly" with Mayor
Dean Mazzarella over public school funding, saying, "I will fight that fight until I get into the state Senate."
They disagreed on whether the Safe Communities Act is necessary to improve public safety. The proposal would prevent local law enforcement from asking questions about a person's immigration status, keep local law enforcement from collaborating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and prohibit the use of state tax dollars to create a registry based on a protected class like race or ethnicity.
Tran said it is not necessary because it "forbids federal agencies to work collaboratively with local agencies" and "when there's an emergency that occurs we want them to work with our local personnel."
Chalifoux Zephir said the law does not forbid federal agencies from arresting people locally, and that local law enforcement does not have the funding to carry out the duties federal immigration officials want them to, adding that local police must preserve trust with immigrant populations in order to identify criminals.
Chalifoux Zephir supports ballot Question 1, which would limit nurse-patient ratios, and has been publicly critical about UMass Memorial Health Alliance Hospital's plan to close its Burbank Urgent Care Campus and pediatric intensive care unit in Leominster.
Asked to respond to the assertion that Question 1 would lead to more community hospital cutbacks, she said studies haven't returned uniform projections on how much the ballot question would cost. She pointed to another factor straining hospital budgets, too-low insurance reimbursement rates, and said that services are already being reduced.
"That is already happening, so what I would like to do is really look at health care, and take a step back and look at health care in a comprehensive way," she said.
Tran was then asked directly how he will vote on Question 1. He responded by saying the measure would have a "very negative impact on community health centers," cost the state up to $1 billion and siphon nurses away from elder care centers and schools. Pressed by the moderator to answer how he will vote, he did not, saying he wants constituents to decide on the measure for themselves and that his own family doesn't know how he votes.
He also declined to answer, when asked, how he would vote on Question 3, which would keep the state's transgender rights law on the books. "It is up to the people to decide," he said, adding that "if people decide to maintain it as law I will respect that, if the people decide to repeal it that is something the Legislature will have to take up."
Chalifoux Zephir said she will vote yes on Question 3 because "transgender people like any other person or people and should be able to go to public places and feel safe."
The candidates found a sliver of common ground when asked if teacher salaries should be uniform across the state. Tran said "no two school districts are the same" and salaries should be set at the local level, while Chalifoux Zephir said the question should be considered during "comprehensive education reform" efforts but that "it would be really hard to establish uniform teacher salaries."
The question led to a debate over the Fair Share Amendment, a measure that would levy a 4 percent tax on incomes over $1 million. Chalifoux Zephir has long supported the measure, and said she has no problem asking high-income earners, who typically don't pay the full 5 percent state income tax, to support education and infrastructure.
Tran said the amendment would arrive before the Legislature as a graduated income tax, which doesn't work at the federal level, adding that he worked with Sen. Anne Gobi last session to increase the funding to regional school districts.
After previously saying he voted against raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 because he believes those old enough to serve in the military can choose for themselves whether or not to smoke, Tran was asked whether he would support lowering the age of consumption of alcohol and marijuana to 18. He didn't answer, saying he can't decide unless he had the data on the matter.
Chalifoux Zephir said she would have voted to raise the age for purchasing tobacco, saying vaping is a big issue and teenage brains are "more susceptible to becoming addicted to nicotine," to which Tran responded that teenage smoking is already on the decline.
Asked how the Legislature should support the state's aging population, Chalifoux Zephir said the state must reduce monthly premiums, help people remain in their homes while they age and improve transportation. Tran said the country must built up its workforce so more people are paying into Medicare and Social Security than withdraw from it.
In closing, Tran touted his role helping increasing school funding, and passing two bond bills. He said voters should choose him because they deserve a hardworking and transparent legislator, then took direct aim at Chalifoux Zephir, saying "my opponent wants a title, I want to serve you."
Chalifoux Zephir didn't mention Tran in her closing remarks, instead touting her role as executive director of the Leominster food pantry Ginny's Helping Hand, and saying voters should pick her to advocate for beefed-up vocational training and well-paying jobs. "I want to make sure that everyone here has the same opportunities I had to get a good education, do meaningful work, raise a family."
Chalifoux Zephir's closing statement was cut short on the air because the FATV broadcast ran about a minute over. The full broadcast can be streamed online at FATV.org.
Published in Sentinel & Enterprise
Submitted by Jennifer Bassett
As an educator in Leominster Public Schools as well as a taxpayer in Leominster, I have a vested interest in the future of our children, our city, and our state. I want to see Leominster thrive and the state become the place where young people of today can grow into successful leaders of tomorrow. Our children are learning the skills, knowledge, and humanity they will need to keep our society moving forward. It is incumbent upon us to provide equitable opportunities and standards for all of our schools in the district and state, so we can ensure an equitable and stable future. I am voting for Sue Chalifoux-Zephir for state senator this November because she understands the connection between the way we treat our children today and the success of our future.
Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to both Councilor Chalifoux-Zephir and Sen. Dean Tran's thoughts about education in a debate at Leominster High School. When asked about their views on school policies such as curriculum and safety, Chalifoux-Zephir expressed support for ensuring all schools have equitable opportunities for learning and that all students are safe whether they are on their school campus or on a field trip. Tran, on the other hand, said he believes the state should not attempt to mandate curriculum, regulate accountability, or even ensure safe public facilities for our children. It was his view that every school should do whatever the individual principals want to do because all schools are different and do things differently.
Tran's plan is disturbing. In short, Tran's system would increase the disparity among schools and jeopardize our future. We need all of our students to become strong leaders of society, and Sue Chalifoux-Zephir is the person who will make this happen.
Published in The Item
Submitted by Frank Cummings
In January I was interested in S.2243, the We the People Act, and contacted Senator Dean Tran’s office to encourage him to support, and hopefully co-sponsor, the bill. His receptionist did not have an answer for me so I was transferred to his legislative aide with the promise that he would return my call if he was not available. No call was returned so, after a week, I texted that I was assuming no response meant that he was opposed to overturning Citizens United, and therefore believed corporations were people and that limiting money in campaigns was limiting speech.
This is the response I received: “Mr. Cummings, can you provide proof that you actually contacted the office of Senator Tran and to whom you spoke to? If a legislator does not sign on to a bill, the legislator will never know or see the bill until it comes up for a vote.”
Proof? What a weird response. I’ve never heard of such treatment of a constituent by a politician. I need to prove that I called? Where is the answer to where he stands on Citizens’ United?
Furthermore, everyone should know that the Massachusetts Senate has an excellent website that keeps track of every bill’s status. It’s strange that you and I can check where a bill is in the legislative process, but the senator’s office does not know how.
With this treatment of constituents by Senator Tran, my vote will go to Sue Chalifoux Zephir for senator of Worcester-Middlesex.
Published in Sentinel & Enterprise
Submitted by Jane Flynn
A state senator who is able to work effectively within the Legislature plays an important role in the process of creating public policy on issues that affect us. A senator must also be a strong and forceful advocate for the needs of the people of the senatorial district. Electing someone who has the experience and determination to be an effective leader and who is able to work in collaboration with area legislators creates a team dynamic that achieves results for the people and communities in a Senate district.
Sue Chalifoux-Zephir has the experience and determination to be a most effective senator for our region. Her positions on critical issues such as affordable and accessible health care, job creation, transportation infrastructure and adequate funding of education are all high-priority issues to our area.
I have known Sue for many years and I am aware of her passionate commitment to issues important to women and her outstanding record of community involvement and political advocacy. We need a strong leader like Sue Chalifoux-Zephir to be out next state senator.
JANE M. FLYNN
Published in Leominster Champion
Submitted by Neddy Latimer
To the Editor:
As a resident of the City of Leominster, I would like to offer my strongest endorsement for Massachusetts senatorial candidate Sue Chalifoux Zephir.
I have known Susan for many years both personally and professionally, and can testify to her character and work ethic. She demonstrates concern for her neighbors and is forward thinking in her ability to recognize and respond to needs she encounters. She is the director of Ginny’s Helping Hands and is quick to provide food and clothing for those in need. She is a strong advocate for those in all walks of life, ages, genders and ethnicities. I have no doubt that these qualities will make her a senator who will stand up for all North Central Massachusetts.
She will be getting my vote in the Nov. 6 election, and I urge others do the same.
Published in Sentinel & Enterprise
Submitted by Jane Maine
To the Editor:
Initially, my intent for writing was to enumerate the skills, experience, knowledge, passion and empathy that Sue Chalifoux Zephir would bring to the State House as senator in the Worcester & Middlesex District.
She is a lifelong resident of Leominster, a city councilor, has sat on boards of nonprofits, is executive director of Ginny’s Helping Hand and has made it a point to listen and answer questions throughout the district, even if those answers are not popular ones.
But I can’t help wonder why Sen. Tran is afraid to debate Ms. Chalifoux Zephir unless he gets the questions ahead of time. How can he debate issues on the floor if he needs to get questions ahead of time and has to read from notes? How can he fight for his constituents when a lobbyist knocks on the door and he can’t provide a rebuttal without a cheat sheet?
I support a candidate who understands the issues. I support a candidate who can think on her feet. I support a candidate who supports women’s rights (Sen. Tran did try to block Planned Parenthood from moving into Fitchburg; I was at the hearing in 2010). I support a candidate who fights for public health issues (Sen. Tran voted against increasing the minimum purchase age for tobacco products). I support Sue Chalifoux Zephir.
Published in Sentinel & Enterprise
Submitted by Sharon Jordan
The Lunenburg Democratic Town Committee endorses Sue Chalifoux Zephir for State Senate, and Stephan Hay for State Representative (Lunenburg Precinct B). Both Sue and Stephan have demonstrated that they support working families by Sue's endorsement and Stephan's vote for the "Grand Bargain" . This legislative milestone, signed into law earlier this year, raised the minimum wage to $15 and guaranteed paid family and medical leave.
Both Sue and Stephan believe that climate change is real. Supporting environmental issues is not only good policy, but can bring good paying green jobs to our area. They also support more state aid for public schools believe that health care is a right, not a privilege, and have brought important attention to the proposed closure of local HealthAlliance patient care departments, which will hurt many of our families and neighbors.
Please cast your vote for Democrats Sue Chalifoux Zephir and Stephan Hay, and help them keep Massachusetts "blue".
Sharon Jordan, Chairman
Lunenburg Democratic Town Committee
From the Sentinel & Enterprise
Written by Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- In what may be the last time they face each other before Nov. 6, state Sen. Dean Tran and his challenger, Leominster City Councilor Sue Chalifoux Zephir, outlined contrasting positions Thursday night on gun control and the nurse staffing question, among other issues.
The 30-minute forum, hosted by Fitchburg-Leominster All Politics and aired live on Fitchburg Access Television, saw the two candidates for the Worcester-Middlesex District seat whip through wide-ranging subject matter, but rarely engage the other.
On some issues their disagreement was clear. A question on whether the candidates would support additional gun control measures led to a debate on the merits of the so-called "Red Flag" gun bill, which Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law last summer.
The law allows for the removal of firearms from the possession of a person a judge deemed to be an immediate threat to themselves or others.
Tran, a Republican, was the only state senator to vote against the law, Democrat Chalifoux Zephir noted before adding that she would have supported the bill.
Tran said, "I am very proud of that vote" and that he did not support the bill because the final version was stripped of "mental health components" and the potential of government overreach.
"It sets a precedent that allows government to go after your personal property," he said.
Police chiefs in Massachusetts already have the right to take guns away from residents, said Chalifoux Zephir, and the "Red Flag" law provided a process for a person who was stripped of their gun to get it back.
"This bill will save lives," she said.
They were asked whether they support ballot Question 1, one of three referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot that would limit the number of patients that could be assigned to a nurse.
Tran did not offer his opinion or say whether or not he will vote in favor of the measure.
He said he generally dislikes ballot questions, which he said are to be considered by voters, and that his constituents will tell him "how to legislate this ballot question" on election day.
In contrast, Chalifoux Zephir said "the care of very sick people varies tremendously by hospital." She said she supports Question 1, which would implement "safe patient ratios" and improve patient care.
"We need to take care of patients," she said. "Bedside nurses are the first defense against somebody getting sicker and readmitted to a hospital."
Asked to state the key component to developing the region's economy, Tran said infrastructure, and pointed to the unfunded feasibility study regarding widening and improving safety on Route 2 that he successfully lobbied for on Beacon Hill.
"We have to make sure that our roads and bridges are safe, our buildings are safe for our residents as well as easy access to our highways," he said.
Workforce development and vocational training were top of mind for Chalifoux Zephir. "We have an opportunity to really rebrand North Central Mass. as a place where the industry can find a highly skilled workforce," she said, adding that the region must invest in public transportation, including adding a commuter rail stop in Gardner.
A question on how the candidates would leverage their political relationships on Beacon Hill saw both touting their ability to work collaboratively.
Moderator Kevin Cormier noted that Tran was endorsed by three regional mayors -- Democratic Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale, Republican Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and independent Dean Mazzarella of Leominster.
Tran said "people don't realize the relationships that I've built on people with both sides of the aisle" and that he worked with his Democratic colleagues to advance their initiatives, then pointed to his endorsement from "lifelong Democrat" and former state Sen. Robert Antonioni.
Chalifoux Zephir noted that five regional state representatives, including Reps. Natalie Higgins, Stephan Hay, Harold Naughton Jr. and Jennifer Benson, endorsed her -- "people who are crucial to getting things done."
"I am a consensus builder," she said. "I know how to work with other people to move things forward."
The general election is Nov. 6.