RUTLAND – Peter Durant declared victory just after 9 p.m. Tuesday over his colleague, State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, D-Gardner, in the race for a state senate seat.
The two state representatives were vying for the Worcester and Hampshire Senate seat most recently held by Anne Gobi, D-Spencer.
Zlotnik had called to concede but Durant, a Spencer Republican, said the call went straight to voicemail and he listened to it a short time later.
“He said,’You know why I’m calling and if you want to call me back, give me a call. Otherwise, I’ll see you at work tomorrow’,” Durant said. “I appreciate the call. It’s not an easy call to make.”
Durant said the campaign was clean and fair and he and Zlotnik will continue to work together for the district.
“One of the things that we both said was that at the end of this, one of us is going to be the other’s senator so it doesn’t make sense to get nasty about this,” Durant said from his campaign celebration at Center Tree Bar & Grill in Rutland.
Tuesday’s special election was sparked when Gobi left the senate earlier this year for a position as director of rural affairs under Gov. Maura Healey.
The seat was a critical win for Republicans as it had been held by a democrat for a half-century.
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis said the victory was good news for the party.
“In the geographical center of Massachusetts the voters have spoken: the Republican Party is back, people,” Evangelidis said as he introduced Durant, calling him the current “leader and face of our party in this Commonwealth.”
Durant thanked his supporters and said he owed much to his wife, Kate Campanale, a former state representative who last year ran for Lieutenant Governor in what Durant called a “very hard campaign” that was unsuccessful.
There were “a few things” that weighed heavily in the campaign and likely contributed to his win, Durant said.
“The gun bill was important. This is a district that is loaded with sportsmen and they’re upset about it,” he said.
“I do think illegal immigration was a big issue but really, what that issue is about is tax dollars,” he said. “The state is heading into what some believe is a recession and the bill for this migrant crisis is going to be in the billions. In a state that has declining revenues … that (money is) going to come from somewhere.”
While issues were front and center, Durant admitted he’s a little superstitious and didn’t write a victory speech. He also wore his lucky, albeit a bit frayed, tie.
“This tie is the tie I wore since my first race as Selectman (in Spencer) in 2006. I’ve worn this tie at every debate, I wear this tie on Election Day every time and you can see it’s not doing well,” he said.
Durant will have to hang on to the tie since he’ll have to again run for the seat next year. Zlotnik will retain his house seat for the remainder of his term and has said he plans to run again next year.
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.