In today's Leominster Champion:
Congressman James P. McGovern (D-Worcester) and state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) led a Democratic rally in support of Natalie Higgins, Democratic candidate for the 4th Worcester District, at the Knights of Columbus in Leominster on Sunday, Sept. 18. The event was attended by about 75 people.
Joining Flanagan and McGovern in their support for Higgins were state Reps. Hank Naughton (D-Clinton), Jen Benson (D-Lunenburg), Stephan Hay (D-Fitchburg) and Jonathan Zlotnik (D-Gardner). Also supporting Higgins are Leominster City Councilmembers Sue Chalifoux Zephir, David Cormier, Wayne Nickel andJames Lanciani Jr., and Leominster School Committee membersNona Ojala, Heather Poirier Mazzaferro, Cody Caisse, Suzanne Koehler, Ron Houle and Wendy Anderson.
Also in attendance at the upbeat rally were Steve Kerrigan, candidate for Democratic state party chair and former Democratic nominee for Massachusetts lieutenant governor, Registrar of Deeds for Northern Worcester County Kathleen Reynolds Daigneault, Leominster Democratic City Committee member Bryan Leblanc, Lancaster Selectman Mark Grasso and Democratic State Committee members from surrounding towns.
In his remarks, McGovern said the more he gets to know Higgins, there are three things that he has been so impressed with.
“First, she’s a very hard worker,” said McGovern. “Her win in the primary is evidence of that. No one worked harder than Natalie. The second is that she’s very smart. She brings a fresh a vision and new ideas to the job of state representative and she has a very deep understanding of the issues. And third, Natalie is talking about the issues that really matter to the people of Leominster. She will be a strong representative for them on Beacon Hill.”
“Natalie is committed to the City of Leominster,” Flanagan said. “She knows this city and knows what’s important to the people of Leominster. As state representative, she’s going to be a strong advocate and a great partner for me on Beacon Hill.”
Higgins, executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, said that public education is among her top priorities. She pointed out that she will be voting no on Question 2.
“Lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state will siphon millions of dollars away from our public schools which are already struggling to provide adequate education to our children, and we lose more than $700,000 each year in Leominster,” she said.
She added that the issue of affordability and accessibility of higher education must be addressed so that everyone has an opportunity to go to college without the burden of overwhelming student debt. Higgins also pledged to fight for more access to mental health care and support for small businesses in north central Massachusetts.
“I’m humbled and thrilled by the outpouring of support from Democratic Party leaders as we gear up for the general election in November,” Higgins said. “We have a lot of work to do, and I’m excited to partner with them to ensure that Leominster’s state rep seat remains Democrat.”
To the Leominster voters I've met over the last six months, who believed in a new, fresh voice for the city. Thank you for sharing your stories, you concerns, your hopes for our community. I couldn't have done it without each and every single one of you. Yesterday's election showed us all that every vote counts. Thank you for your support!
To the more than 20 unions and advocacy groups that endorsed my candidacy. To former Worcester Mayor Joe O'Brien, Rep. Keefe, Rep. Mahoney, Sen. Eldridge, thank you for having the courage to support my candidacy, and help me build the phenomenal grassroots campaign that got us to a victory!
To my volunteers, who tirelessly helped me connect with voters, day in and day out. For so many of you, this was the first campaign you worked on, and I'm so honored to have your support. Your dedication and determination kept me energized!
To my family. You were with me every step of the way. Without question. I couldn't be happier that you came on this wild ride with me, and I know there's no way I could have done it without your overwhelming support.
To Rick Marchand and his team -- thank you for such a hard fought race. I look forward to working with you going forward.
Let's enjoy this weekend to recharge. To celebrate all of our hard work! And then onward to November 8th!
In today's Telegram & Gazette:
LEOMINSTER - Political newcomer Natalie Higgins won the Democratic nomination for state representative, defeating veteran City Councilor Richard Marchand.
Running a campaign that focused on reaching out to voters and then reinforcing that on primary day with follow-up calls and offers of rides to the polls, Ms. Higgins, 28, defeated Mr. Marchand 1,475 to 1,437.
"I am just so proud of my volunteers and my family and the organizations that and office holders who had the courage to endorse a new candidate," she said after votes were tallied.
Ms. Higgins said after several months of constant campaigning she is ready for two more months out meeting people and pushing for a Democratic victory in November. She will face Republican Thomas Ardinger in the general election.
The two candidates showed different styles as they worked to bring their supporters out to the polls. Ms. Higgins spent the morning visiting polling places, but her campaign focused on contacting voters by phone or in person to get them out to vote.
Working out of her campaign headquarters on Lexington Circle, she and her workers called 1,200 voters during the day, reminding them to vote and offering them a ride if they needed one.
"We're running a very unorthodox campaign by Leominster standards," Ms. Higgins said.
Although she had a few vehicles with signs on them near the polls and a few people holding signs, her big focus was calling the voters to make sure they voted. Seeking advice from veteran campaigners, including former Worcester Mayor Joseph C. O'Brien, she said she ran a personal contact-heavy campaign, in which she said 18,000 voters were contacted personally and 36,000 with mailings.
Ms. Higgins is executive director of the nonprofit Public Higher Education Network. Her campaign got a boost through donations and endorsements from several unions.
Mr. Marchand had help from a couple of veteran campaigners. State Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster, the man the two candidates are hoping to replace when he retires from office at the end of the year, was at City Hall holding a sign for Mr. Marchand. He said he and Mr. Marchand go back 27 years.
"We got on the City Council together in 1989," he said. "We were both campaigning and supporting each other. I saw how he works."
Mr. Rosa said he and Mr. Marchand share the same values.
"We're a little more on the conservative Democrat side, but compassionate," he said.
Also campaigning with Mr. Marchand was former long-time City Councilor Robert Salvatelli, who retired from the council after the last city election. Mr. Salvatelli, who also taught and was a school administrator in Leominster for many years, was holding a sign at the Leominster Veterans Center polling place.
Ms. Higgins said after the vote was announced that she received a call from Mr. Marchand pledging his support in the final election in November.
In today's Sentinel & Enterprise:
Many voters have key issues they hope the people they choose to support will fight for. For my family's top priorities are access to mental-health care and the education funding formula used at the state level. On both of these Natalie Higgins is an ally to the residents of our community.
She is aware of the need for more access to mental-health providers in this area. Long waiting lists of people, especially young people, in crisis are unacceptable. Natalie will be a champion on Beacon Hill for those in need to get the care they so desperately need. She has fresh and innovative ideas that she will fight for.
For example she would fight for education incentives to get more people into the field of social work and mental health care. She also understands that the population of children with special needs in our schools is rising, and with it comes the need for adequate funding. She promises to fight for an overhaul of the formulas used to calculate funding.
Natalie Higgins has the connections and experience at the state level and is ready to get to work. She knows how things are done and is prepared to put in the hard work to be our state representative. She will be accessible to us, her constituents. I have listened to what she has said, and I have asked questions when I needed more information, and she is who I want fighting for my family.
That is why today I will be voting for Natalie Higgins in the primary and in November in the general election.
In today's Sentinel & Enterprise:
LEOMINSTER -- Based on unofficial poll numbers counted at both candidates' camps, political newcomer Natalie Higgins has beaten Ward 5 City Council Richard Marchand to be the Democratic nominee to represent the 4th Worcester District.
"Thanks to everyone who believed that a girl who's wanted to serve her community for her entire life was the best choice," an emotional Higgins told supporters gathered at the Luxury Box just before 9 p.m.
According to unofficial totals gathered by Higgins supporters, the 28-year-old Democrat pulled in 1,475 votes, just 38 more than Marchand's 1437.
These totals matched fairly evenly with the numbers reported by Marchand's supporters, who reported a loss by 40 votes.
"It's not the end of the world, guys," Marchand told his supporters during his concession speech. "It hurts to lose once in a while, but you push on."
Higgins attributed her campaign's election day get-out-the-vote initiative as having been especially crucial in Thursday's victory.
"We left nothing on the table and I'm thankful for all the people who have run campaigns in the past for helping me make sure things were done right the first time," she said.
In a phone cal not long after conceding defeat, Marchand told Higgins: "I want to congratulate you. You have a great family, you ran a great campaign. I want to wish you the best of luck as you take the next step in this race."
Higgins later told her supporters that she looked forward to working with Marchand during the rest of the campaign.
"We chatted and we're going to work together to make sure this seat remains a Democratic seat," she said.
Results came at the end of an election day where some ward officials were reporting low voter turnout.
"It's been very, very low. Everybody's waiting for the next election in November," said Donald Piermarini, the poll warden for Ward 5B.
Ward 5A Warden Cynthia Henderson said she experienced decent numbers for her ward.
"It's been pretty good for a ward this size. In a state primary only about 10 percent of the voters usually come out," she said.
Higgins will now face off against unopposed Republican candidate Thomas "Frank" Ardinger in the November election.
In today's Sentinel & Enterprise:
LEOMINSTER -- Natalie Higgins and Richard Marchand continued to clash over issues regarding increasing taxes on the wealthy and legalizing recreational marijuana during a debate Tuesday night hosted by the Sentinel & Enterprise at City Hall.
The two Democratic candidates for state representative for the 4th Worcester District, while admitting that both share similar opinions on several state and local issues, were shown to have differences on some key issues.
"Where we differ," Higgins said, "those issues are very important and enormous."
Marchand and Higgins will square off in Thursday's Democratic Primary to see which candidate will run against unopposed Republican Thomas "Frank" Ardinger in the November election.
They are seeking to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Dennis Rosa, who decided not to seek re-election.
The one difference that became a recurring theme through the course of the debate was the state's "Fair Share" amendment proposal, also called the "millionaire's tax," which would levy a four-cent tax on every dollar of earned income over $1 million.
Marchand, a Ward 5 city councilor, reiterated his opposition to the proposed tax increase, referring to it as a "target tax" to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into the state.
"I'm afraid of a government who targets people for being successful," he said.
Higgins argued in favor of the tax, saying it would bring in an additional $2 billion in state revenue.
She also pointed out that only 12 Leominster residents would be effected by the increase."I really can't believe my opponent does not support this," she said.
That point was also visited during a question on how each candidate would bring state funding back to Leominster.
After Marchand pointed out the need to relieve the pressures of student debt, a point his opponent agreed with, Higgins said, "But how are we going to do that without any increased taxes?"
Higgins, who is the executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, or PHENOM, brought up the issue of finding new revenue without raising taxes again during a discussion over public transportation, which she and Marchand both said needs to be more readily available to all residents at all hours.
"We all know the problems, we've all experienced them, and I would like to hear some solutions," she said.
Marchand said in response, "When I get elected, you'll hear a lot of them."
The debate also drew a clear line between each candidate's stance on the topic of legalizing marijuana on a recreational level.
Explaining that he is concerned with the possible health side effects and increase in crime, Marchand said he plans to vote against legalization on the November ballot.
"We do know that it's a gateway drug, and that was proven by the CDC," he said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control.
Higgins, however, disagreed with Marchand's claim that marijuana is a gateway drug, explaining that she is more concerned with the voters' previous decision to decriminalize marijuana without finding a way to regulate it on a state level.
The candidates also found themselves on opposite ends of the concept of tax-free weekends.
"I think that we need to talk about how this is impacting our small businesses," Higgins said, explaining that tax-free weekends don't always guarantee a boost in sales.
She instead suggested as more beneficial, long-term solutions finding ways to decrease energy and health-care costs for business owners.
However, Marchand disagreed, standing by the possible benefits to local businesses that a tax-free weekend can provide.
"We should at least have a day when local businesses of Leominster can experience the windfall of a good sales day," he said.
Tuesday's debate also marked Marchand's announcement that he would leave his seat on the City Council if elected as representative, despite his previous statements that he planned to finish his current term.
He said he came to the decision after learning that a special election could be held by April to fill his seat, and that it would only cost taxpayers $11,000.
"The plan is to assess how that plays out on Nov. 9 and move forward from there," he said.
Despite their disagreements, each candidate did have similar stances on multiple issues, including creating a more effective Department of Children & Families. Both candidates said finding ways to better fund social-worker salaries would improve the department's effectiveness.
Both Marchand and Higgins also had criticism for Attorney General Maura Healey's recent proposed crackdown on assault rifles. Higgins said Healey should have consulted with other officials and legislators before making her announcement, while Marchand said he felt the attorney general's actions had possibly been a "knee-jerk reaction."
In this week's Leominster Champion:
To the Editor:
It matters who represents you in the state Legislature. That’s why our organization is supporting Natalie Higgins for state representative from the 4th Worcester District. A vote for Natalie is a vote for clean water, breathable air, and healthy forests and parks.
We are proud to endorse Natalie because of her strong support of environmental issues, and her impressive record of community involvement. Natalie understands the importance of our state investing in clean energy, transportation, and parks to address the rising cost of energy, create jobs, and build healthier communities. Natalie will also be a tireless advocate for working families and our senior citizens.
On Thursday, Sept. 8, please vote for Natalie Higgins in the Democratic primary for state representative.
In today's Sentinel & Enterprise:
In the Sept. 8 primary, we can choose a candidate who will be a smart, savvy, full-time representative for us at the Statehouse. That person is Natalie Higgins -- a lifelong Leominster resident who was the first in her family to graduate from college.
She went on to earn a law degree and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. She could have taken a high-paying job at a law firm, but she chose to work for a nonprofit organization focused on state policies to help make state universities and community colleges more affordable. Previously, Ms. Higgins was a rape-crisis counselor, a community educator, and worked at her parents' small auto parts business.
Having interned for then-Rep. Jennifer Flanagan and been a Rappaport Fellow in then-Gov. Deval Patrick's Cabinet Affairs Office, Ms. Higgins knows how things work in the Statehouse.
Given her education and experience, Ms. Higgins would be a strong voice for Leominster starting with her first day in office.
I encourage you to think about what skills are needed to be an effective state representative in Boston and then visit www.ElectNatalieHiggins.com.
While voting for a familiar name may seem like the nice thing to do, a vote for Natalie Higgins on Sept. 8 is a vote for the relevant experience and connections our community needs and deserves.
In this week's Leominster Champion:
To the Editor:
Have you ever had to review résumés of job applicants and decide who to hire? That’s how I think about voting for elected officials — who has the most relevant background, learned skills, and demonstrated commitment to do the job well? Also, who can get up to speed the quickest?
In the primary race for Leominster’s state representative, the person with the best résumé is Natalie Higgins. I’ve been fortunate enough to talk with both Democratic candidates in the past year, and I believe Ms. Higgins has the right temperament, skills and experience to represent us at the state level. She already has experience working in the State House, and she currently directs an organization that advocates statewide for better public education. Additionally, she knows how to listen to and advocate for the underrepresented, thanks to her work experience and her legal training. Ms. Higgins knows what issues matter to Leominster — education, health care and behavioral health, and jobs — because she grew up here.
I encourage you to join me and “hire” the best Democratic candidate for state representative by voting for Natalie Higgins on Thursday, Sept. 8.