SAUGUS — The final day to register to vote in the September state primary is Wednesday, and three Saugus residents are expected to appear on the ballot in the race for the 9th Essex District.
Donald Wong is on the Republican ballot and Matthew Crescenzo is on the Democratic.
Papers were certified by Town Clerk Ellen Schena for resident Michael Coller as an Independent for the State Election, but Schena said she was unsure if he received enough signatures.
“I won’t know until after the primary,” she said.
The 9th Essex District encompasses precincts 1, 2, 4-9 in Saugus; precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Wakefield; and Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn.
Wong, who has held the seat since 2011, was a Saugus Town Meeting member from 2005 to 2007 then chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen until 2011. In addition to his work at the State House, Wong owns and helps operate family-run Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1 with his siblings. The restaurant was started by his grandparents in 1950.
He wants to be re-elected to focus on helping people young to old, and to help push bills that affect little things in everyday life.
“My focus is really on the veterans, the seniors and also the youth in our district,” said Wong.
In 2015, Wong supported and put into action a relief fund for veterans. The legislation added an option to donate to the relief fund when residents paid their property and excise taxes, he said.
In its first year in Wakefield, the money raised in Wakefield replaced a broken oil burner used to heat the home of a veteran in town, he said.
“The people who donate the money, they know the money stays in their community,” he said.
Just last week Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill proposed by Wong that allows Gold Star families, who have had a family member killed in action in the U.S. Military, to affix a gold star license plate to their commercial vehicle, as long as the vehicle is not advertising a business, said Wong.
“We had a resident in Saugus who had a gold star plate on their business car and they had it for 10 years,” said Wong. This particular family had their son pass away in the war, he was a U.S. Marine.”
When the family tried to renew the license plate, the clerk at the registry said they could not because it was illegal to have it on the business car.
Wong created a bill that was part of the BRAVE Act for veterans.
“These are simple things that we as a state level can put bills out to fix things are overlooked,” he said. “This family had a veteran who died overseas for us.”
If reelected, Wong said he also hopes to tighten prescription medication regulations to help combat the opioid epidemic.
This isn’t the first time Wong has run in a contested race. In 2016, he ran against and defeated Democratic nominee Jennifer Migliore.
Challenger Crescenzo said he is running for the seat because he believes the current political process is not working. If elected, Crescenzo said he would focus his efforts on healthcare for veterans and the treatment of mental health and addiction.
Addiction is a mental health issue and should be treated as such, he said. He believes those struggling with addiction should not have to fear prosecution when trying to get help.
This goes hand-in-hand with veterans healthcare and proper treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he said.
Crescenzo is a U.S. Army veteran who served overseas in Afghanistan and South Korea as a communications specialist security officer.
“In the military, you’re taught if you need help, you’re weak,” he said. “That’s not the case. Vets should be encouraged to get help.”
Most recently Matt was an IT specialist at Lynn Community Health Center before leaving to campaign full time.
Crescenzo has received endorsements from the town’s democratic committee and from Planned Parenthood.