From Sentinel & Enterprise
By Julia Sarcinelli
LUNENBURG -- The three Democratic candidates hoping to fill out the state senate term of Jennifer Flanagan held a candidate forum to answer questions from the community Sunday night at the Lunenburg Library.
The candidates are Sue Chalifoux Zephir, Michael Mahan and Michael Kushmerek. Flanagan has left her senate seat to serve as the governor's appointee to the Cannabis Control Commission.
All candidates started by discussing issues that are important to them, such as health care, education, infrastructure and the opioid crisis.
Chalifoux Zephir described herself as "a business woman who gets things done," adding she has worked primarily in the non-profit sector and is "not afraid to take on the status quo."
Mahan said public service has always been a "calling" for him due to his family's history in it and added he is dedicated to giving back to the communities of central Massachusetts.
Kushmerek, along with Mahan, has worked with Flannagan before and said he would like to continue the work she has done, especially concerning mental health.
One audience member asked what set each candidate apart from the others.
Chalifoux Zephir said something that sets her apart is she supports increasing the minimum wage to make sure people who work minimum-wage jobs can have families and make a living.
Mahan said, "I'll bring a new perspective and a fresh voice," adding he has not held office before, unlike Chalifoux Zephir and Kushmerek.
Kushmerek highlighted his history with the Fitchburg City Council, for which he has served as president since 2016, and said he would focus on collaboration and bipartisanship.
An audience member asked the candidates what they would do to help the opioid crisis.
Kushmerek and Chalifoux Zephir brought up GAAHMA in Gardner, an organization that offers substance-abuse services, and said they should keep looking at taking a more holistic aproach.
Mahan said he had friends overdose this year and said we should expand the drug court model and give people the opportunity to the right access of health care.
The primary election will be held Nov. 7 in Fitchburg and Leominster for the municipal elections and the special election will be Dec. 5.