It’s Peake performance vs. reform agenda in Cape Cod race

THE OUTER REACHES of Cape Cod may be best known for the unspoiled beauty of the Cape Cod National Seashore and the freewheeling ways of Provincetown tea dances, but Sarah Peake says she spends lots of her time focused on harbor dredging policy, wastewater infrastructure, and building a trust fund to support affordable housing. 

Such are the pressing needs, she says, of the House of Representatives district that stretches from Harwich to Provincetown. Peake has held the House seat since winning election in 2006, and has risen into leadership in the 160-member body, currently holding the post of second assistant majority leader. 

It gives her a powerful perch to influence state policy and deliver for her district. “What I say to people is, I’m not asking you to look at my past accomplishments to give me a pat on the back, but asking you to look at my robust achievements to foretell the future,” said Peake. “I’ve been fighting for this district for 16 years, and I’m not about to stop.” 

The only thing standing in her way this election cycle is Jack Stanton, a 30-year-old Democratic primary rival who is trying to push a reform agenda similar to that of a handful of other House challengers who are calling out incumbents for being part of a Beacon Hill culture where too much is decided behind closed doors. 

One of 13 House candidates backed by the reform group Incorruptible Mass, Stanton is calling for more transparency in House rules on the recording of committee votes and the time required for bills to be released before full votes of the House take place. 

“Having a State House where there is so little transparency and a system which vests so much power in the hands of the speaker and leadership takes power away from the members, and by taking power away from members, you’re taking power away from the communities they represent,” said Stanton. 

Peake says debates over the rules have been pushed by the dwindling caucus of House Republicans for years, and she’s never going to support changes “to slow down the process and give our Republican colleagues more power than their numbers deserve.” 

Peake reels off a list of progressive legislation passed in the recent session, including mental health care reform, new abortion protections, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, and a strengthening of the state’s offshore wind power initiative. She said those measures – as well as the work she’s done on more local Cape issues – are what matter to voters. “As I’ve been going around to house parties, knocking on doors, the one constant theme I hear is, thank God we live in Massachusetts,” said Peake. 

Stanton, who grew up in Sandwich, which falls in a neighboring House district, lost a race there four years ago to Republican state Rep. Randy Hunt. He says his move to Provincetown 15 months ago, where he’s been waiting on tables and working on lobster boats, was not made with an eye toward a rep run in another district.

His latest effort to stir up the race has centered on criticizing Peake for not agreeing to a debate next week. The vice chair of the Harwich Town Democratic Committee, Judith Underwood, reached out to Peake’s campaign when the legislative session ended a little more than two weeks ago to try to set a date for a forum next week, to be moderated by the editor of the Cape Cod Chronicle. Peake turned down the invitation. 

“This is a non-issue because we are debating,” Peake said. 

She and Stanton are scheduled to appear together on a Cape Cod NPR station on September 1. 

Maybe if organizers had reached out in May or June it might have been possible to schedule another forum, Peake said. “I don’t know what his calendar has on it,” she said of Stanton, “but I’m taking this race very seriously, and I have myself booked out every minute from now until the 6th of September,” Peake said, referring to the primary date. 

The Harwich Democrats proposing the second debate are hardly neutral in the race. Underwood is supporting Stanton, and the chair of the Harwich Democratic committee, Ray Gottwald, has donated to Stanton’s campaign. 

“For this to pop up now, it’s nothing more than a ruse and talking point,” said Peake. 



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