Spencer Republican Peter Durant declared victory in a special state Senate election in Central Massachusetts, flipping a seat that's been held by Democrats for more than five decades.
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis introduced Durant at his election night party at the Center Tree Bar and Grill in Rutland.
"The Republican Party is back, people," Evangelidis said to a round of applause.
Durant won over Gardner Democrat Jon Zlotnik and attributed his success, in part, to the hard work of his supporters. Both men currently serve in the state House of Representatives, and Zlotnik will keep his House seat. Durant said Zlotnik called him to concede Tuesday evening.
"It's a humbling feeling, and I'm going to work my hardest to represent you all in the way that you deserve to be represented — in the way that I think I've done over the course of the last 12 years, and I think the people saw that," Durant told his supporters.
Durant's win will give Republicans four of the 40 state Senate seats. His backers hope it marks a turning point after the 2022 election shut Republicans out of statewide elected office in Massachusetts.
Before results came in, Sutton Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman said he viewed the election as a referendum on two particular policy issues. Durant was a vocal opponent of gun control legislation the House passed last month, and has also been critical of the Healey administration's response to the shelter capacity crisis facing the state amid an influx of migrants.
“If Peter wins, I think you can say, ‘Hey, people were kind of upset on those two issues, and that helped him tremendously,’” Fattman said.