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Newly elected state representatives Arriaga, Saunders prepare to represent western Massachusetts

 The Massachusetts State House.
Henry Epp
/
NEPR
The Massachusetts State House.

Two new state representatives from western Massachusetts who were elected this week, said they are already gearing up to take office in January.

In the Chicopee-centric 8th Hampden District, Democrat Shirley Arriaga said the next six or so weeks will be filled with learning the ins-and-outs of how things work on Beacon Hill.

There are also other details to tend to, like hiring a staff. She said one issue she wants to focus on as soon as she takes office, is home heating prices, which are anticipated to skyrocket this winter.

"Some families right now are debating and having to make decisions whether or not food is going to be on the table, gas prices, they keep increasing, and now with the heating costs on top of that, it's going to be a tough winter," Arriaga said.

Arriaga defeated independent candidate Sean Goonan in Tuesday’s election. She will replace Rep. Joseph Wagner, D- Chicopee, who is retiring.

In the 7th Hampden District, which includes Ludlow and stretches northward to three other counties, another newcomer Democrat, Aaron Saunders, was victorious in this week’s election. He bested Republican James “Chip” Harrington, to earn a two-year term. Saunders said part of the way he will prepare to be a state representative, is by listening.

"A lot of meetings with local officials, with regional folks and residents to make sure that in a tight filing deadline that the Massachusetts legislature has, that I'm putting my best foot forward," he said.

Saunders said he wants to get to work on some regional priorities, such as expanded passenger rail service between Boston and western Massachusetts. He also mentioned some local projects, including rehabilitating a former mill building in Ludlow, and redeveloping the land where the former Belchertown State School once was located.

Sanders is succeeding the current state representative, Jake Oliveira, D-Ludlow, who is heading to the state Senate.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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