Dean Tran bows down to his supporters while arriving at River Styx Brewing on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 after winning the special election. The special
Dean Tran bows down to his supporters while arriving at River Styx Brewing on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 after winning the special election. The special election was to fill the Worcester-Middlesex state Senate seat vacated by Jennifer Flanagan. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

FITCHBURG -- Republican Dean Tran won the special election Tuesday for the Worcester-Middlesex state Senate seat, according to unofficial election results.

Tran, the At-large Fitchburg city councilor, was elected over Leominster Democrat Sue Chalifoux Zephir by 607 votes out of the approximately 15,627 votes cast.

Tran celebrated with supporters at River Styx in Fitchburg. He attributed his win to his strategy of "visiting (voters) at their door step, and speaking to them on a personal level."

As a new state senator, Tran said he will represent the district honestly and with integrity.

"I'm going to represent the people in this district the same way I've represented the people of Fitchburg," he said.

Dean Tran, flanked by Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, arrives at River Styx Brewing on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 after winning the special
Dean Tran, flanked by Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, arrives at River Styx Brewing on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 after winning the special election. The special election was to fill the Worcester-Middlesex state Senate seat vacated by Jennifer Flanagan. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

Tran's victory represents the first for Republicans this year. After he spoke, the crowd inside the packed brewery cheered and chanted "GOP."

According to unofficial results, Tran received 7,240 votes with all cities and towns reporting.

Asked how he felt to be the first Republican to represent the district in recent memory, Tran minimized the importance of party.

"I don't feel that it matters because I'm a Republican," he said. "I'm very excited that the voters have trusted me with the state Senate position and to represent them on a state level."

Chalifoux Zephir had 6,633 votes, with Claire Freda earning 1,554 and Charlene DiCalogero getting 200 votes, according to preliminary results.

Chalifoux Zephir won her home city of Leominster by nearly 300 votes more than Tran, however, that was not enough to make up for the 800-vote lead Tran had against his opponent in his home city of Fitchburg.

She conceded in a speech before an emotional crowd of supporters at Slate Bar & Grill in Leominster.

"This is a tough one, but you know what I could not be more proud with the campaign that we ran, we came up a little short, we did, we came up a little short," she said.

She recognized her family, supporters, primary challenger Michael Kushmerek and Rep. Natalie Higgins, who wiped her eyes as Chalifoux Zephir recognized her campaign volunteers.

"People in this room have poured themselves they've poured their heart, they've poured their resources, their time their energy, which is all you've really got," she said.

Green-Rainbow candidate Charlene DiCalogero said in a statement her party made a positive impression on voters in the district. She congratulated Tran on his win and called on voters to resist corporate spending in elections.

"I urge you to see today's results as a call to move forward," she wrote.

"Help us rescue our democracy by running for office yourself, or by supporting candidates you believe in, who run clean and green, who call our corrupt political system to account."

Unenrolled candidate and Leominster City Councilor Freda said she is proud of the race she ran, calling it free of political attacks.

"We ran a really good race. We're very proud," she said. "I wanted to go to Boston and be a voice that was totally independent, obviously the voters didn't think that was the way they wanted to go and supported another candidate."

Gardner, the third largest city in the district, was won narrowly by Tran with just 20 more votes than Chalifoux Zephir.

Tran also had strong showings in rural communities like Lunenburg, where he led by 161, and Westminster, where he came in 107 votes ahead.

Apart from Leominster, Chalifoux Zephir did pick up wins in Clinton and Lancaster, but it was not enough to make up ground lost in other communities.

Tran will serve out the remainder of Jennifer Flanagan's term representing residents in 11 communities in North Central Massachusetts. Flanagan stepped down in August after being appointed to the state's Cannabis Control Commission.

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis was among Tran's supporters at the Fitchburg brewery. He commended Tran for a well-run campaign.

"Dean is a tremendous guy. He worked hard on this and I believe he ran a very issue-oriented campaign," he said.

Tran campaign worker John Tata, of Lunenburg, explained why he supported Tran simply.

"A lot of politics is just talk, but he actually does things," said Tata.

Peter Jasinski of the Sentinel & Enterprise staff contributed to this report.