It’s been more than 30 years since a Vineyard resident represented the Island at the State House. This year, four Vineyard candidates are looking to end that drought.
Daniel Larkosh of Vineyard Haven, Tim Lasker of Chilmark and Roger Wey of Oak Bluffs have announced plans to run in the Democratic primary this September. Jacob Ferreira of Vineyard Haven is running as an unenrolled candidate, which guarantees him a place in the general election.
They join four other candidates from the district, which also covers Gosnold, Nantucket and parts of Falmouth.
The opening has been created by Eric Turkington who, after 20 years as the state representative for the district, will not seek re-election this fall. This year’s contest has attracted more candidates than in any race during Mr. Turkington’s combined tenure.
Democratic candidates on the Island kicked off campaigns this month, with two staging fundraisers last week.
Mr. Lasker hosted a rock concert last Thursday at the Outerland nightclub in Edgartown, titled Statehouse Rock. Those under 25 years of age were given a discount at the door and there was a bill of young Island musicians, including English singer Mara Carlyle, who gave a patriotic rendition of Amazing Grace.
Roger Wey meanwhile drew a more mature crowd on Saturday to an event at the Oyster Bar Grill in Oak Bluffs, attended by several Vineyard political players, including community activist and author Vera Shorter and fellow Oak Bluffs selectman Ron DiOrio. As a measure of the organization of Mr. Wey’s campaign, bumper stickers already had been printed and were handed out at the event.
Mr. Larkosh is yet to organize an event but claims to have started his campaign on June 16 with a round of soliciting private donations.
All five candidates will speak Sunday at the Oak Bluffs elementary school at an event organized by the Martha’s Vineyard Democratic Council.
Among the likely talking points is the controversial Cape Wind project, planned in federal waters between the Vineyard and Cape Cod, regardless of whether a state representative holds much sway over such an issue.
“It’s the same as whether can a state representative help bring down the prices at the fuel pump,” said Rufus Peebles, chairman on the Democratic committee, who spoke at Mr. Lasker’s event last week. “The answer is no. It’s beyond the scope of the legislature, and not part of the job description. But it’s a question everyone will ask.”
Mr. Peebles argued that Sunday’s event was a good opportunity to find out more about the appointment and the election process.
“Here’s a chance to get in early on the process and maybe pick a candidate,” Mr. Peebles said. “One of the things that could happen Sunday is [people might ask], ‘All right, how can you help us with money from the state for schools?’ Our state representative and senator have lobbied for us on this.
“There’s a perception off Island of the Vineyard as mega-mansions. Our reps need to say, ‘Wait a minute, there is an enormous variety of economic conditions on the Island, with many below the poverty line.’ It needs all the money they can get from the state budget, particularly for education and health care. Also, what’s the quality of this person, are they smart will they be attentive and so on.”
A supreme court ruling on one-person, one-vote in 1977 meant that the Vineyard was clumped together as one district with Nantucket, Gosnold and parts of Falmouth. The Island previously had its own representative at the State House. But since the change the district seat always has gone to a resident of Falmouth, where voter turnout is much higher, despite the fact that the Vineyard, Gosnold and Nantucket make up more than half of the district. “A big factor is the quality of the representation we got from Eric,” Mr. Peebles said of Mr. Turkington, who is from Falmouth. “He was incredibly available by phone and mail, so it was never an issue.”
The only recent Vineyard challenger, Jim Powell, ran as a Republican, but lost in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
Mr. Lasker, an electronic media and energy technology consultant, is on the Chilmark planning board and the affordable housing committee. He helped revise the Chilmark master plan and co-chaired the Vineyard committee to elect Deval Patrick.
Mr. Wey is now serving his 21st year as Oak Bluffs selectman and has spent eight years as Dukes County commissioner. He has also served on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Dukes County Retirement Board, the Dukes County Charter Study Commission and the Oak Bluffs board of appeals.
Mr. Larkosh ran, unsuccessfully, against Joseph E. Sollitto Jr. for clerk of courts in 2006. He was the attorney for an ultimately successful campaign to prevent a $100 million state grant to fund a San Francisco 49ers football stadium. Mr. Larkosh, who grew up in Oak Bluffs, also ran for mayor of San Francisco.