PROVINCETOWN — Barnstable Fourth District state Rep. Sarah Peake has not had a primary challenger since 2006.
Enter Democrat Jack Stanton, a 30-year-old Provincetown lobsterman and service worker who is running against Peake seat in the Sept. 6 primary on a platform of climate action, affordable housing, and increased transparency, he said in an interview this week.
“Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both chambers, yet we don’t deliver on the values of the party platform,” Stanton said. “We don’t have a functional state legislature in terms of addressing our biggest challenges with a commensurate response.
“With regards to climate, we’re out of time,” he continued. “What we do in the next decade is going to dramatically affect the lives of generations.”
The 2021 Mass. legislature’s Climate Roadmap Bill commits to net zero emissions by 2050, but Stanton says that’s not good enough.
“We should be financing new industries we can start here,” Stanton argued. Specifically, he would like to see the state’s intellectual and financial resources put to work on new renewable battery storage technology.
“House leadership is content to nibble around the edges,” he said.
Stanton worked in Mozambique, on the coast of East Africa, for the consulting firm Forcier after graduating in 2014 from George Washington University. He said he saw climate change’s effects first-hand, an experience that informs his politics.
Growing up in East Sandwich, “I also come from a fragile place,” he said.
Stanton ran against Republican incumbent state Rep. Randy Hunt in Barnstable’s Fifth District in 2018. He received about 43 percent of the vote, according to certified election results, similar to the percentages Democrats Patrick Ellis (2012) and Matthew Terry (2014) received when they challenged Hunt for his seat in the House.
As for his current opponent, Stanton said, “Rep. Peake has done an exemplary job in advancing herself in House leadership.
“She is an excellent public servant,” he added.
On housing, Stanton said, “We’re at a crisis point, and we need to address the systemic causes.” He supports a renter’s right of first refusal and a public bank to help “increase access to credit” with down payments.
Stanton said he is currently living with a friend in Truro, but will soon move onto his sailboat, which is moored in Provincetown Harbor during the summer.
He is starting his second season as a waiter at the Lobster Pot, and he has been a commercial fisherman since 2018. “It’s important to have representatives who reflect the experience of the community,” he said.
Stanton said, because the “Speaker of the House wields an enormous amount of power, the voices of rank-and-file Democrats are stymied.”
Frustrated with the House’s limited transparency — he noted that the Mass. legislature ranked last, alongside Kentucky, Alabama, and Nebraska, in a 2013 Open States report card — Stanton said he volunteered with the People’s House campaign, organized by Act on Mass, to publicize committee votes and increase the time representatives have to read bills before voting.
Stanton also pointed out that three of the last five speakers of the Mass. House were convicted of felonies committed while serving in office, a fact confirmed by MassLive reporting.
“The whole system is broken,” Stanton said.
Stanton has yet to receive public endorsements from current representatives in the State House, but he said former Rep. Kathleen Teahan has endorsed his campaign.
In a May 6 interview, state Rep. Sarah Peake, who is the House speaker’s second assistant majority leader, said, “I’m looking forward to talking about my large record of accomplishments and achievements during my campaign. I’ve fought every day for the past eight terms.”
Peake added, “I think my race will gin up turnout and focus attention on the statewide candidates on the Cape, and ultimately I think it’ll be good for Maura Healey.” Healey, the state attorney general, is running for governor.
Peake referred to herself as “an environmental warrior and hero.”
“I know my opponent claims to be a lobsterman,” she said, “but I have served as the Mass. legislative commissioner since 2009 on the Atlantic State Fisheries Commission. I have a seat at the table on a policy making board, and I’m the voice for Cape Cod fishermen.”
Peake also chairs the Regional Transit Authority caucus and has previously served as chair of both the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government and the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.
As for the 2021 People’s House campaign to increase transparency in secret House committee activities, Peake voted against the group’s amendment, explaining in part, “Committees are incubators of ideas, not a final vote. What I did favor is posting final roll call votes. Those are the votes that count.”
Negative committee votes are also recorded publicly, she added, and “anyone can do the math.
“I am fully in favor of transparency,” Peake said. “I worked to ensure that all of our sessions are live streamed, and that people continue to have the possibility to participate in committee meetings remotely.
“I think what people really care about is what you’re doing for them,” Peake said. “Yes, I work on statewide policies, but I’m also unwinding red tape and helping connect voters with state agencies.
“Just today, I answered three constituents’ emails,” Peake added. “That’s a very large part of what I do.”
Cape and Islands Sen. Julian Cyr endorsed Peake during a May 6 interview.
“I could not ask for a better partner,” he said. “Not sending Peake back to Beacon Hill would be a huge loss, not only for the Cape, but also for the feminist and LGBTQ movements in Massachusetts.”
No Republican has filed papers for Peake’s House seat, so the Democrat voters elect in the September primary will likely run unopposed in the general election.