With less than two weeks until election day, an endorsement race has begun between two of the four candidates for the Cape and Islands state representative seat being vacated by Eric T. Turkington. The other two candidates downplayed the significance of endorsements and argued that they can come at a political price.
A lone Democrat and three independents are running for the seat.
Daniel Larkosh, a West Tisbury attorney who won the Democratic primary, has secured a host of endorsements from individuals, political action groups and unions, although he failed to secure the backing of a key Democratic party group on the Vineyard.
The biggest name on his list is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who endorsed Mr. Larkosh during a speech at a fundraiser at Laureen’s restaurant in Falmouth Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Tim Madden of Nantucket has the endorsement of some 40 well-known town leaders and residents here on the Vineyard, Mr. Larkosh’s home turf. Mr. Madden’s endorsements also include three of the five Steamship Authority governors.
The other two candidates are Jacob Ferreira, a former Coast Guardsman from Vineyard Haven, and Melissa Freitag, a Cape Cod Community College professor from Falmouth.
The three unenrolled candidates have said they will change their status to Democrat if elected.
Early on Mr. Larkosh and his campaign identified endorsements as a high priority, he told the Gazette this week.
“[Governor Patrick] is a very meaningful endorsement,” he said. “In this race [endorsements] are important — no one has performed in the job and you’re looking to the judgment of others. It’s particularly important when it’s an open seat.” He also said:
“Everyone competes for those endorsements. Building alliances demonstrates to the voting people that I can do that at the state house.”
Tuesday’s event in Falmouth was packed with Cape politicians, including Rep. Matt Patrick, and union spokesmen.
“He’s for working families and we’re working families, men and women. He has a good plan for alternative energy and health care, these are working family issues,” said William Campbell, the representative for the Maritime Engineer’s Beneficiaries Association who was at Laureen’s.
Mr. Larkosh also has the endorsement of the Health Care Workers’ Union, 1199 SEIU East.
But one endorsement he has not secured is from the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard.
At a morning meeting of the council last Saturday, approximately 20 members tabled a motion to endorse any candidates on the Democratic ticket after deep division surfaced over whether to support Mr. Larkosh, who did not carry any town on the Vineyard in the primary.
The council also defeated a motion to donate $250 to Mr. Larkosh’s campaign, and later did vote to give $500 to the Obama campaign.
Mr. Larkosh said he was disappointed by the decision.
“I would have liked their endorsement,” he said, “I hope I have the opportunity to make a better case in the future.”
A statement listing individuals and groups which have endorsed Mr. Larkosh released last week by Michelle Armour, Mr. Larkosh’s campaign manager, announces the support of members of the Cape and Islands delegation.
However, two members of the delegation are not included on the list: Demetrius Atsalis, a state representative from Barnstable, and Mr. Turkington, the ten-term outgoing state representative.
“He says he’s not endorsing anyone,” said Mr. Larkosh of Mr. Turkington, adding that he respects Mr. Turkington and his decision.
He said Mr. Turkington cited as a reason his longstanding relationship with Tim Madden, who has been the Nantucket legislative liaison for the last 10 years. Mr. Turkington confirmed this yesterday.
“That’s true. I have worked closely with him and he has done good work for the district as legislative liaison,” he said. He refused to comment further on his lack of endorsement.
Mr. Madden, who ran as a write-in during the primary and came in second district-wide behind Mr. Larkosh in a crowded field, owed much of his success to a huge showing on his home turf of Nantucket. However, Vineyard support for Mr. Madden appears to have grown following the primary.
Mr. Madden said this week he had collected some 40 endorsements from prominent Vineyarders, including current and prior selectmen, county commissioners and residents and both Vineyard candidates from the primary race — Roger Wey of Oak Bluffs and Timothy Lasker of Chilmark.
He said he plans to collate the endorsements and place a newspaper advertisement ahead of the election next week.
He argued that many of Mr. Larkosh’s endorsements are simply part of the package.
“When you’re the Democratic nominee, those come your way, it’s how it works. It’s true of any party,” he said.
Mr. Madden also has the endorsement of three Steamship Authority governors: Marc Hanover of the Vineyard, Flint Ranney of Nantucket and Robert Marshall of Falmouth.
The other two candidates paint a different picture of endorsements.
“It’s a political game” said Ms. Freitag, who added that she received the backing yesterday of the Falmouth Bulletin, a weekly newspaper.
She added that she doesn’t see endorsements as a decisive factor in the election.
“I think people will look to records — what we’ve actually done,” she said.
Mr. Ferreira said he has not paid much attention to endorsements.
“Quite frankly the only endorsements I think are critical are the ones voters make on Nov. 4,” he said, “I’m sure Mr. Larkosh worked hard for some and others came because he is the Democratic nominee. On day one there will be the phone calls and these political action groups say, congratulations, now remember the support we gave you?”
Mr. Larkosh had another view. “I never promised anyone anything. I’m not trading favors,” he said.