By George Barnes
LEOMINSTER – Democrat Natalie Higgins, a new face on the local political scene, was the winner Tuesday in the race for state representative in the 4th Worcester District.
Ms. Higgins, 28, defeated her opponent, 72-year-old Republican Thomas “Frank” Ardinger, by nearly 2,000 votes, winning 10,350 to 8,390, in the race to replace state Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster.
Mr. Rosa announced in February he would not seek re-election. With unofficial results received by the two camps indicating a strong win for Ms. Higgins, Mr. Ardinger conceded defeat and contacted his opponent to congratulate her.
A lawyer and executive director of nonprofit Public Higher Education Network, Ms. Higgins had previous political experience as an intern with the office of state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster. She won the Democratic nomination, defeating veteran Leominster City Council Richard Marchand, in September.
Ms. Higgins was a supporter of the Fair Share amendment, which would levy a 4-cent tax on every dollar above $1 million. Where Ms. Higgins and Mr. Ardinger strongly disagreed was on the questions of uncapping limits on charter schools and legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
On the charter school question, Ms. Higgins was strongly opposed, saying the cap had not yet been reached and it could hurt public schools financially. Mr. Ardinger favored the question, saying it would provide additional opportunity especially for students in poorer neighborhoods.
Ms. Higgins supported legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Mr. Ardinger was opposed.
Ms. Higgins also supported a law setting restrictions on how farm animals could be raised. Mr. Ardinger said he could see arguments on both sides, but indicated during the campaign he would vote against the question.
Throughout Election Day, Ms. Higgins and her large group of supporters worked phone banks, calling voters and providing rides to those who needed them. She also received support on the campaign trail from state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, with whom she once interned, and U.S. Rep. James McGovern.