Fitchburg City Councilor Dean Tran (R-Fitchburg) defeated Leominster City Councilor Chalifoix Zephyr by nearly 600 votes to become the next State Senator for the Worcester & Middlesex Senate Seat. The results come from the Sentinel & Enterprise (http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/breakingnews/ci_31504076/gops-dean-tran-wins-special-election-state-senate)
According to unofficial results, Tran received 7,240 votes with all cities and towns reporting.
Chalifoux Zephir had 6,633 votes, with Claire Freda earning 1,554 and Charlene DiCalogero getting 200 votes, according to preliminary results.
Fitchburg is a classic example of a Central Massachusetts community that has been largely left behind by our tech driven innovation economy and largely neglected by state Democratic leadership.
Significant also that Claire Freda, the unenrolled candidate, is a longtime Leominster City Councilor who possibly drew votes away from the Democrat in their hometown while Tran easily carried Fitchburg (despite a nearly 2-1 Democratic registration advantage) and the outlying small towns.
I know anecdotally that a lot of Democrats and unenrolled voters I’ve talked to in Fitchburg like Dean Tran personally and he ran a stronger than expected race against Steve Hay in the special election to succeed Mayor DiNatale back in 2016.
As Paul Simmons has also discussed, races like these and the Worcester County offices we’ve lost to the GOP are proof that the connected vs disconnected divide that is contributing to our populist moment is becoming a fault line even in our own state.
I give Planned Parenthood a ton of credit for their work on behalf of the Democrat, a solid ally for choice while Tran has a decidedly mixed record. Unfortunately, Tran ran a better door to door campaign focused on kitchen table issues like economic development, job creation, and working with the popular Gov. Baker to help the state. Social issues alone cannot win us elections, even in a blue state like MA.
An early loss for Gus Bickford and also a loss for outside groups like Our Revolution and DSA which were nowhere to be found in this race. Winning Somerville and Cambridge City Council seats is important, but this was an opportunity to keep the State Senate progressive that was lost. Both “wings” of the party took an L on this race.
I’ve met Tran and he has an inspiring story as a first generation American and refugee who fled Vietnam after the war. I hope he remembers it wasn’t just the Republicans that elected him and governs reasonably. I hope he can be a leader on refugee issues within his party. I also hope that progressives start organizing past 495.