Cape Cod Democrats don’t always get a lot of attention. It’s a lot of geography to cover for not as many voters as you can get to in a more defined area. That said, I always take the Howard Dean approach of you run everywhere, there is no such thing as a bad vote. Presidential election years have shown that there are Dem voters out there.
In 2004, First Barnstable elected Cleon Turner as the first Democrat to hold that seat. Representative Turner has been a tremendously dedicated public servant for 10 years, known for his diligence in reading the full text of every bill before the legislature. With his retirement, Democrats have nominated Elisa Zawadzkas, born and raised here, now a successful attorney. Elisa ran an amazing campaign, getting many new people involved in politics for the first time to support her and her grassroots candidacy. She is also active with the Cape Cod Young Professionals, a group that is trying hard to look at how we keep younger people on the Cape.
Her opponent is a retired state trooper, Tim Whelan, 46, of Brewster. The GOP is anxious to reclaim the sear, coalescing behind Whelan with no primary and plenty of money to save. Whelan is trying as much as possible to use the “nice guy” playbook and not get into issues. But there are differences, this is not a moderate Republican.
Early on Whelan raised the issue of welfare reform as important. As soon as you hear that, you know it is more of the GOP war on the poor. Remember, a federal audit reported only .12% of beneficiaries being flagged in MA, under the national average. No one is against making programs stronger, but when it comes to the GOP talking about welfare “reform”, you know it means cutting people.
At their debate last week, Zawadzkas spoke in favor of the increased minimum wage, Whelan is opposed. To me, this speaks to the heart of Elisa’s candidacy. When you are from here, you know a lot of people who work 2 or more jobs to make ends meet. This is one of the primary reasons why young people are leaving the Cape. The Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center estimates that 26% of Central Cape Cod workers would benefit directly or indirectly from an increase in minimum wage. Bear in mind that the $8 per hour now is worth more than 20% less than minimum wage in 1968.
Whelan opposes this. He doesn’t get it. When you move to Cape Cod on a $73K plus benefits pension in your 40’s, the issue does not hit home. Surprisingly, none of the local media has even raised the issue of Whelan double dipping the state if he becomes a state rep. And add one more piece to this. I am unclear based on what I read on page 32 of this booklet from the State Retirement Board, whether someone receiving a state pension can work more than 960 hours per year for the state subsequently. I’ve emailed them for clarification.
I attended a fundraiser for Zawadzkas this past Saturday and as Representative Sarah Peake said, Elisa is the one we can elect who will fight on issues like the minimum wage, getting NStar to not spray on Cape Cod and preserving the environment as a whole. We can fundamentally change the dynamics of the district and Cape politics by electing Elisa. The campaign is out there and knocking doors. Whelan is getting help from the state GOP and off-Cape PACs. Any way you can help out is appreciated, check out her website. Thanks!