He’s had a rocky year, Cape and Islands state Sen. Dan Wolf told a gathering of Vineyard Democrats Saturday morning.
“This has not been an easy number of months for me,” Mr. Wolf told members of the Democratic council assembled at Howes House in West Tisbury. “There were times during these last four months [sitting with attorneys at the state ethics commission] when I would visualize myself at one of my meetings here on Martha’s Vineyard.
“This is such a sweet spot for me, it’s become a personal one. During my deepest moments, I would think this is a place that embodies so much of what we want to accomplish on a bigger scale . . . I just want to thank everybody for that.”
Mr. Wolf’s encounter with the Massachusetts Ethics Commission began last summer after he announced his candidacy for governor. The commission found that his part ownership of Cape Air was a conflict of interest and said he would have to give up his campaign for elected office or give up ownership of the regional airline he founded. Contracts with the Massachusetts Port Authority for Logan Airport were at the heart of the problem, the ethics commission said.
On Thursday, however, the state ethics commission adopted a new regulation that will allow Mr. Wolf and others in his situation to hold elected office while having "financial interest in contracts that pre-date their election or appointment."
The state senator said he will seek reelection to a third term this year, although the new ethics regulation came too late to save his gubernatorial campaign, which he permanently suspended late last year.
On Saturday discussion among Vineyard Democrats focused on the 2014 political agenda, including climate change, the environment, income inequality and financial reform. The council will use the list for discussions with gubernatorial candidates leading up to next November’s election.
For Mr. Wolf, it was clear the campaign was still very much on his mind.
“I’ve gotten to know all the other gubernatorial candidates really well,” he said, adding that he’s been talking to all the candidates about their economic platforms. He said it would “be crazy” to endorse a candidate at this time, but encouraged audience members to press candidates on certain issues.
“If I were going to ask you to ask them something, it would be to draw a picture of private-public collaboration . . . that actually works together to deliver for everybody,” he said. Not just for the state, but “for the whole planet.”
He also said the candidates should be asked “what the difference is between what you’re doing now and being a governor.”
“This is not a job about skill,” he said. “It’s not a management job, it’s a leadership job. We need to be asking people, what is the difference between management and leadership.”
Richard Knabel, an active Democrat and West Tisbury selectman, asked if Mr. Wolf could be persuaded to resume his campaign. If there was a way, Mr. Wolf said, he would, but “it’ll never happen.”
Instead he said he’s using his time and “15 minutes of political fame in the gubernatorial race” to inject his ideas and goals into the race.
Chief among those issues is the economy. “It has, since day one, been about the economic justice issue as defined a number of ways,” the senator said. “Economic inequality, wealth inequality, is mainstream now.”
Mr. Wolf highlighted a bill recently passed by the state senate that would raise the minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2016. He is co-chairman of the Workforce and Labor Development Committee. “We have a lot of work to get it through the [house of representatives],” he admitted. But if the bill is passed, he said Massachusetts could have the highest minimum wage in the country.
He said the minimum wage issue was a call to action for Democrats. “There is a huge disconnect between what grassroots Democrats believe and are talking about and what we’re doing,” he said.
“Why is this stuff so hard? I would just encourage you to continue to ask the party to be the party that represents poor working middle class people, that’s what I thought the Democratic party was and is. Let’s just make sure we hold it to that.”
Near the end of the meeting, as conversation veered from nationwide single-payer health care to the rising cost of higher education, Oak Bluffs resident Esther Hopkins asked about NStar’s resumed practice of spraying herbicides under power lines on the Cape and Islands.
“I’m filing legislation that anything that gets sprayed under power lines on the Cape and Vineyard, the CEO of NStar has to drink a cup of it before they use it,” Mr. Wolf said.
“I’m sorry to be flip about it,” he added, underscoring that the issue is important and that he hopes continued work by citizen and conservation groups will be fruitful.
“Good citizen activism is making a difference because it’s giving me the voice I need,” he said.