Opioid epidemic and mental health awareness issues: I will aggressively work with all stakeholders to confront and address the opioid addition crisis.
Support our public schools: I know because my four children attend public schools.
Support road and bridge funding: We must spend more money to fix our roads and bridges.
Tax relief and economic growth: We must create living wage jobs.
Sponsor domestic violence programs: It’s our duty to keep vulnerable populations safe.
Veteran and senior care: Specialized programs to promote their health and welfare are vital.
Police and firefighters funding: Public safety employees must have the resources to keep us safe.
Constituency services: Getting back to taxpayers is an essential attribute of a good legislator.
BOSTON – Sen. Dean Tran, R-Fitchburg, has spent his entire life breaking boundaries. After spending just two years in his native Vietnam, Mr. Tran and his family set out to escape the communist confines of their home and come to the United States. The destruction caused by the Vietnam War, combined with economic sanctions and Vietnamese government policies, made the country untenable for Mr. Tran’s family. The trip was not easy, though, as they spent two years at a refugee camp in Thailand while they waited for their green cards to be approved. He still remembers the smell of salt water mixed with fumes from the oven that was located on the boat he and his family took to Thailand. “Everything that we’ve achieved really derived from my parents’ commitment to getting their family out of a communist state and doing whatever they could to achieve freedom and provide freedom to their family,” Mr. Tran said. Mr. Tran and his family arrived in America in 1980 with the sponsorship of a Catholic priest in Clinton, the Rev. Anthony Kazarnowicz, whom Mr. Tran still calls a close friend. “He was one of the first people to contact me when I was elected,” he said. Nearly 40 years later, Mr. Tran defied the odds again. Following an unsuccessful bid for state representative in early 2016, he was elected to the Legislature in December to fill the spot vacated by Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster. He’s the first Republican to occupy his seat in more than 20 years and the only Vietnamese-American in the state Senate. “Dean is the meaning of America,” Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Webster, said. “Somebody who escaped from another place to get to opportunity, freedom, liberty and all the principles for which it stands.” With Mr. Tran’s election, the Senate’s GOP caucus rose to seven in the 40-member chamber, but he doesn’t want to focus on party affiliation. The 42-year-old freshman senator is focused on building a better life for his children in the way that his father did for him. “The passion to get involved in politics came from having a family,” Mr. Tran said. “I wanted to raise a family in a better environment and create a better future for them to grow in. And also, to establish name recognition.” Mr. Tran faced various struggles as he and his family attempted to establish themselves in America. He recalls friends who received better treatment because their names were well-known in the community, and said the environment was hostile for Vietnamese immigrants. He vowed the same difficulties would not hinder his children. “There was a lot of discrimination, prejudice and racism that a lot of people had to face due to the fact that we were just a few years after the war had ended,” Mr. Tran said. “So there was hostility not only to the veterans coming back from the war, but also to people from Vietnam emigrating to the United States as refugees.” In 1986, his family moved to Fitchburg, where he now lives with his wife, Kerry, and four children. After graduating from Brandeis University, he pursued a career in software development. Mr. Tran says his experience managing people on three different continents prepared him well for his position in public service. “My background in the private sector, being able to work with people of various backgrounds, races, ethnicities and socioeconomics allowed me to be able to work with people in politics,” he said. “Because in politics, everyone is different. Everyone has a different background, beliefs and opinions.” He points to his relationship with Senate President Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, as evidence of his ability to collaborate with both sides of the aisle. He was “honored” to cast a recent vote for her to remain Senate President through the end of the legislative session, and said that he gives her a hug whenever he sees her. ″(Mr. Tran’s) lifetime of hard work and determination is inspiring and exemplary of the American dream,” Ms. Chandler said in a statement. “His voice adds to the diversity of experiences across the membership of the Senate.” When Mr. Tran arrived on Beacon Hill in January, Mr. Fattman said Ms. Chandler gave a wonderful tribute to him and his family in the Senate chamber. “It speaks volumes of her character and willingness to extend that olive branch,” Mr. Fattman said. It is not lost on Mr. Tran that the bipartisan cooperation lauded by Gov. Charlie Baker during his State of the Commonwealth address is rare in politics today. “If you look at the politics from our state and the federal level, it’s very different,” he said. “Even though we have a two-party system and one party has supermajority control, we still are able to work in a bipartisan manner.” Among Mr. Tran’s legislative priorities are improving economic development and increasing services for children in his community. He’s working with Ms. Chandler and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, on legislation that would request a feasibility study to make improvements along Route 2 with hopes of increasing commercial growth. The filing deadline has passed for this session, but Mr. Tran and his colleagues are discussing the language of this proposal. As the Senate works through its version of the fiscal 2019 budget in the coming months, Mr. Tran is committed to securing additional school funding and ensuring that the state funds 75 percent of special education tuition costs through the Circuit Breaker program. But beyond legislative accomplishments, Mr. Tran hopes to set an example as the first minority elected to the state Senate in his district. “If someone like myself, who grew up poor, lived in a refugee camp, emigrated from a communist country, and worked hard can become a state senator in the great state of Massachusetts, anyone can achieve their goal,” he said.
BOSTON - After swearing in Fitchburg Republican Dean Tran on Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker celebrated the expanded ranks of the Senate’s minority caucus with Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “First time since the ’90s there, buddy,” Baker said. “We’re on the upswing,” Tarr replied. The 42-year-old Fitchburg city councilor defeated Leominster City Councilor Susan Chalifoux Zephir and two other non-major-party candidates in a Dec. 5 special election. With the addition of Tran, the Senate Republican caucus has grown to seven members for the first time in 18 years. “I think it’s great for the Republican Senate caucus, but really I’ve never been a party politics person. I’m coming to the state Senate to represent the people and work for the people,” said Tran, who has resigned from the Fitchburg council effective Dec. 31 and left his private-sector job as a senior manager for a software development company. Born in Vietnam in 1975, Tran and his family fled the communist country and moved to the United States in 1980, according to his campaign page, which notes he is a U.S. citizen. He graduated from Fitchburg High School and Brandeis College and first joined the council in 2006, he said. Tran’s top priority in the Senate will be boosting economic development in his district with infrastructure projects, he told the News Service right after joining the Senate. In a statement issued through the office of acting Senate President Harriette Chandler, Tran said he wants to “work together to control runaway spending, provide tax relief for working families, address the opioid crisis and strengthen our schools.” The way to achieve economic growth for his district northwest of Boston is by building up infrastructure in the area, he said. He will receive a regular reminder of one of his goals during his new commute – studying the expansion of Route 2 from the Concord rotary out to Gardner. “Part of the biggest thing to attract commerce to the district is making sure that the infrastructure’s in place. For my district, Route 2 plays a tremendous role in doing that. Right now the congestion and traffic headaches that people incur on a daily basis on Route 2 is not conducive to economic growth. And I’m looking forward to doing a feasibility test on Route 2 to make sure that we can achieve the improvements that we need for Route 2 and possibly expand Route 2 if that’s doable,” Tran said. After campaigning on keeping taxes low, creating jobs and supporting education, Tran’s victory was a bright spot for Republicans, who hold the U.S. presidency and both branches of Congress, but are facing stark poll number heading into next year’s midterm elections. In Massachusetts, Democrats hold supermajorities in both branches of the Legislature, and Republicans will be trying to hold the governor’s office and maybe break into the ranks of the state’s congressional delegation in 2018. “Dean Tran’s victory tonight again shows that Republican candidates can be successful in traditionally blue states when they run on common-sense, fiscally-sound legislative solutions,” Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter said in a statement earlier this month. “With popular governors like Charlie Baker, Republicans can continue to win tough races and flip legislative seats in states throughout the country.” During the campaign, Democrats criticized Tran for saying the transgender access rights law Baker signed did not do enough to protect children from sexual predators and that he would rather see public funding for local women’s health clinics instead of Planned Parenthood. As of early afternoon Wednesday, no decisions had been made about a leadership position for Tran or committee assignments, according to Tarr’s office. If given a position that grants him a pay raise under a law rushed through the Legislature at the beginning of the session, Tran will donate that extra money to charity, he said. A bipartisan group of local elected officials attended the swearing-in, which took place in the Governor’s Council chambers late Wednesday morning after the council confirmed the results of his victory. Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke were all on hand, along with the Senate Republican caucus and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Chandler participated in the ceremony, bestowing a Senate pin on her new colleague. “This is my first time doing this,” Chandler noted. In a statement, she said, “Dean’s lifetime of hard work and determination is inspiring and exemplary of the American Dream. I look forward to working with Dean and his staff as we enter the New Year.” Tran missed the Senate’s marathon session assembling a criminal justice bill, but he will be around to take a vote on any compromise version that might receive a stamp of approval from the conference committee that met for the first time Monday. Asked about criminal justice and health care – two of the top issues lawmakers are hoping to address this session – Tran said he supports mandatory minimum sentences for people who deal hard drugs to children. The House and Senate voted to repeal many mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses. The seat Tran fills opened up after Jennifer Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat, was appointed to the Cannabis Control Commission by Baker. Tran will take Flanagan’s old offices in the State House, according to Tarr’s office.
It has been a while since the region has been represented by a Republican in the state Senate. That will change in January. Voters chose Dean Tran, of Fitchburg, for the vacant Worcester-Middlesex Senate seat. Tran won the race to replace Jennifer Flanagan, who resigned in September to accept a position with the state Cannabis Control Commission. Results are still preliminary. Also on the ballot were Democrat Susan Chalifoux-Zephir, of Leominster, Green-Rainbow candidate Charlene DiCalogero, of Berlin, and Unenrolled Claire Freda, of Leominster. Berlin, Bolton, Clinton (precincts 1 and 3) and Lancaster voters favored the Democrat, with only Sterling joining the majority of the district in favoring Tran. Chalifoux-Zephir won in Leominster, but Tran took Fitchburg, Gardner, Lunenburg, Westminster and Townsend. Tran, of Fitchburg, a councilor at-large in Fitchburg, ran unopposed on the primary ballot. “I am very grateful for the tremendous support and trust from the people throughout the district,“Tran said after the election. “My background and message of honesty and hard work resonated with the voters. I look forward to brining my record of serving the people to Beacon Hill and represent all residents to the best of my ability.” “This district is unique and the people in all 11 communities want their next state senator to be able to relate to them. From being an immigrant to being a U.S. citizen; from being poor to being part of the middle class; from providing public service to working in the public sector; I can relate to almost everyone in this district,” Tran said in an interview with the Item. “The people want a voice to represent them and their interest of having a job, low taxes and a safe community to live and raise a family in and I plan on being that voice for them.” Tran said he has been a “strong voice” for the people of Fitchburg for 12 years and plans on bringing his constituent service focus to the other 10 communities “by being present and lending my ears to listen to all their concerns and issues. I will show no preference regardless of the size of the community. I have a strong record of being honest and hard working and the people in the smaller towns can trust me on my words. “Clinton was my first real home after my family fled communism when I was at the age of 2,” Tran added. “I spent another two years in a refugee camp before emigrating to the United States and living in Clinton at the age of 4. Clinton was very good to my family and me. I am very intimate with the small town of Clinton and its surrounding towns. I am familiar with the problems and needs of the small towns and I pledge not to treat the small towns any different from the larger cities.” In Clinton, where only voters in precinct 1 and 2 cast ballots, Chalifoux-Zephir beat out Tran, 230-184, with DiCalogero and Freda each receiving six votes. Voter turnout was 8.9 percent, which is higher than the primary, but still lower than other towns in the Item area. The other two districts in Clinton are represented by Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). In Lancaster, Chalifoux-Zephir and Tran were neck and neck with the Democrat with the slight advantage, winning 268-266. DiCalogero and Freda tied with 19 each. There was an 11 percent voter turnout. In Bolton, Chalifoux-Zephir outpolled Tran, 441-303; DiCalogero received 22, Freda, 12. Turnout was 20 percent, but that included a local vote on buying Camp Virginia. In Berlin, Chalifoux-Zephir won 227-134, with hometown candidate DiCalogero receiving 59 and Freda, 5. Berlin had 19 percent turnout. Only Sterling voters favored Tran, with a count of 451-402 over Chalifoux-Zephir. Freda received 21 and DiCalogero 7, with a 15.13 percent turnout. “Senator-elect Dean Tran will be a terrific advocate for the people of the Worcester & Middlesex district, and a champion for taxpayers and small businesses on Beacon Hill,” said MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes. “The MassGOP is proud to congratulate him on his victory, which is a testament to the fact that voters stand with Governor Baker’s vision of fiscal discipline and common sense reform.” Chalifoux-Zephir sent a statement congratulating Tran about an hour after the polls closed. ?“I was proud to run a campaign focused on the major issues facing the families of North Central Massachusetts, from fixing our roads and fully funding our schools to making healthcare more affordable, from creating jobs to fighting the opioid epidemic,” Chalifoux-Zephir said. “I congratulate Councilor Tran on his victory.” There was an extra vote in Bolton, with voters defeating a question to buy Camp Virginia, 405-381. Voters had defeated the question at last week’s special town meeting, where the vote failed to garner the two-third majority needed for passage.