Zlotnik running for Gobi’s former Senate seat


For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/14/2023 5:17:43 PM
Modified: 9/14/2023 5:17:44 PM

GARDNER – A Special Election has been scheduled to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by the departure of former Sen. Anne Gobi, who left to take a post in the Healey-Driscoll administration.

State Rep. Peter Durant of Spencer and Gardner resident Bruce Chester are facing off in the Oct. 10 Republican primary.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gardner state Rep. Jon Zlotnik has clear sailing to the General Election on Nov. 7.

Zlotnik, who currently represents the 2nd Worcester district, was born and raised in Gardner, graduating from Gardner High School in 2008. From there he went on to attend UMass/Lowell and in 2012, earned a degree in history. In May of this year, Zlotnik earned his master’s degree in public administration from Clark University in Worcester.

His ascent to the state Legislature was a quick one.

“I was 21 when I announced my candidacy for state rep. the first time,” he told the Athol Daily News. “I graduated from UMass in May of 2012 and in November won my first election.”

Zlotnik, now 33, explained that despite his young age, he was familiar with the operations of both the Legislature and the workings of a representative’s office.

“In college, for a few years, I had worked as an intern for Bob Rice, who was the rep for this district,” he said. “He’d won a Special Election in 2005, then retired in 2010. So, I worked for him from the summer of 2008 until he retired. That was my introduction to the state Legislature and to state politics.”

Zlotnik said his reasons for seeking the vacant Senate seat are twofold.

“First,” he said, “I’ve worked with several senators. My House district has always been split between two Senate districts, so I’ve worked with a number of senators as they’ve come and gone. As a result, I recognize how important that kind of coordination and collaboration is between – not just House and Senate members – but local officials and the state delegation.

“That kind of collaboration, I have found, is very important. And I think that’s doubly true in these big Senate districts in terms of making sure that we can amplify our voice on Beacon Hill and get what we need and get the policies we need by punching above our weight, so to speak.”

The Gardner Democrat believes his House district represents a microcosm of the Senate district which he is now running for. Since the 2nd Worcester includes the City of Gardner as well as smaller towns, Zlotnik said he has had to deal with “urban issues, rural issues, manufacturing, farming. We have some biotech. We have an airport. We have a college, a hospital, and multitown districts, whether they be for water or for schools. We have large tracts of conservation land; all those things that are really amplified across the 22 towns (in the Worcester, Hampshire district). I have a little bit of experience, at least, touching on all those topics important to the district.”

The next motivation behind his candidacy, said Zlotnik, is his ability to work across party lines.

“It’s no secret that this district is a purple district,” he said. “It’s one of the few that’s represented in the House, not just by Republicans and Democrats, but the only Independent member of the Legislature has turf in this Senate district. I’ve shown over the last 11 years that I’m not just capable and willing, but eager to work across party lines to work with my colleagues, and to work with local officials as well.”

Zlotnik’s reputation, he said, includes finding consensus, finding common ground, “and finding avenues for us to push for this region in Boston.”

Zlotnik said some issues that are among his priorities include economic development – “with a subcategory of housing” – transportation/infrastructure, and education. He said those are the issues that he has heard most about from constituents over the past 11 years and “as a result, that’s what I’ve put most of my effort into. And those are the same issues I’m talking about in this Senate campaign.” Infrastructure, climate resiliency and preparedness, housing “are all very much interrelated.”

Zlotnik said his campaign strategy will remain the same, regardless of who wins the Republican primary. He has familiarity with both hopefuls, he said, noting that he has worked with Durant, who entered the state House just a year ahead of him, and that Chester has been his challenger in the last two House races in 2020 and 2022.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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