He is a pilot who became the owner of an airline that became one of the best small business success stories in the country. And now Dan Wolf, the owner of Cape Air, has decided to add politics to his CV. Mr. Wolf has announced he will run for the Cape and Islands seat in the Massachusetts senate that Rob O’Leary will vacate this year, when he makes his own bid for the seat in U.S. Congress that will be vacated by Rep. William Delahunt, who is stepping down.
Wait a minute, who’s on first?
It’s Dan Wolf, actually, who is already running the bases for a November election that won’t really heat up until late summer before the September primary.
But given what’s going on around the country with the rise of the Tea Party movement and a growing anti-establishment mood that has turned the traditional meaning of anti-establishment on its head, Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, thinks maybe it’s not so early after all.
“This is going to be a huge election year coming up, and those who can make a difference are going to be able to make a difference within the framework of the economic recovery that I’m confident is coming,” he said during a brief swing through the Vineyard last week that included a stop at the Gazette office. “This is an opportunity to take advantage of that, to address business development with respect for the environment. We can counter the cynicism.”
That’s Dan Wolf the businessman talking, of course, and his strong background in business is one of the things he will emphasize in the campaign. Founded in 1989 with one pilot (himself) and one route (Boston to Provincetown), today Cape Air is the largest independent regional airline in the country, with 850 employees and an expanding network of regional routes that includes the Cape and Islands, upstate New York and the Caribbean. Known for its excellent customer relations and safety record, among other things, Cape Air is also building a record of innovation. A solar panel installation under way at the Cape Air Hyannis hangar, when complete, will be the largest solar installation in southeastern Massachusetts. “It will make us electricity neutral,” Mr. Wolf said last week.
In addition to his business background, Mr. Wolf has served on a long list of civic boards, including the boards of community banks, on the Cape. He lives in Harwich, is married and has three daughters, ages 22, 20 and 17.
The other candidates who have formally announced they are in the race so far include Sheila Lyons, a Barnstable county commissioner, who is running as a Democrat, and Eric Steinhilber, the development director for the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, who is running as a Republican. The deadline to file with the Massachusetts Secretary of State is this coming Tuesday. Mr. Wolf and Ms. Lyons will run against each other in the primary.
Mr. Wolf declared his candidacy in late April. He admits the most frequently asked question he gets is, why this, why now? His answer is absent the glib tone that is characteristic of so many political candidates.
“I sat in my office one day and looked around and said, I’m 52, I’ve been successful, things are going well, and I’d like to make another contribution, someplace where it is needed. I’m not wealthy, so I can’t do what Bill Gates has done. I can’t just form a foundation.
“You know, so much was said and written about how Obama inspired the younger generation to become involved during his campaign. Well, it was not just the younger generation that was inspired. I, too, was inspired — enough to do something about it.”