SPENCER – A special election will be held Tuesday to fill the state Senate seat left vacant when Anne Gobi, a Spencer Democrat, left the senate for a position as director of rural affairs under Gov. Maura Healey.
Peter Durant, R-Spencer, and Jonathan D. Zlotnik, D-Gardner, are vying for the seat. Both men are state representatives in their respective districts.
Voters across the large Worcester and Hampshire Senate District can vote at their local polling place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Zlotnik, a State Representative since 2013, was the lone candidate on the Democratic ballot in the Oct. 10 primary while Durant and Bruce Chester of Gardner squared off on the Republican ballot, with Durant winning the primary.
In interviews before the primary, Zotnik outlined his priorities saying he is focused on economic development and enjoys working on projects such as converting a former school into affordable housing for Veterans.
“The big reason I ran (for state representative) was economic development,” Zlotnik said.”I thought there was more that the state could do. If we have good education and good infrastructure, good economic development will follow.”
He is also interested in improving education and the way it is funded in the Bay State and would like to improve how technology is delivered to students, as well. Zlotnik said it is very frustrating to see schools without up-to-date technology.
Durant said he’s running because he wants to see growth in the local economy. He also believes government could be more transparent and wants the public records law to apply to the state legislature.
But one of his biggest issues is illegal immigration, Durant said.
He’s voted against drivers licenses for those who have not immigrated legally and is concerned about the high cost of housing immigrants in hotels and other facilities. He pointed to Sturbridge where hotels are being used to house immigrants and local officials are struggling with related issues including costs.
Both men said they oppose a controversial bill restricting gun ownership though Durant pointed out that on primary day, a hearing on the matter took him off the campaign trail to head to Boston while his opponent, who had no opposition in the primary, did not attend the hearing.
Zlotnik touted his bipartisan record and said he “looks for common ground” in his law making efforts. He said he is accessible and attentive to the needs of his constituents.
Durant said he realizes the importance of winning the seat to try to bring some balance to the Senate where he’d be just one of four Republicans. The Senate district has been represented by a democrat for about half a century with Robert Wetmore and then Stephen Brewer, both Barre Democrats, holding the seat for years.
The Worcester and Hampshire Senate District includes Barre, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Gardner, Hardwick, Holden, Hubbardston, Leicester, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Oakham, Paxton, Phillipston, Princeton, Rutland, Spencer, Sterling, Templeton, Ware, West Brookfield, Westminster, and Ward 7 Precincts 2, 4, 5, 6 and Ward 9 Precincts 3, 4 in Worcester.
While the winner in Tuesday’s election will take the Senate seat, whoever is unsuccessful will return to their house seat to finish their current term.