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Briefings: Vega Seeks to Remain Part of Holyoke’s Constellation…

Rep. Aaron Vega announcing his intent to seek reelection in Heritage State Park (WMassP&I)

HOLYOKE—Representative Aaron Vega, a former at-large City Councilor elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2012, kicked off his reelection campaign in Heritage State Park with a promise to carry on work he has begun.

Vega’s announcement had been scheduled for last Thursday, but was postponed after last week’s snowstorm.  Joined by dozens of supporters, local political activists and Mayor Alex Morse, he formally entered the 2014 fray amid the melting mounds of snow and welcome relief of a clear, Sun-soaked sky.

“Two years ago, we stood here and declared our love for Holyoke and our belief that our city can do better,” he said.  “We stood here, together, ready to make a change and work toward One Holyoke. We ran a strong, positive campaign and we won.

Introduced by the City’s Democratic Party Chair Pat Duffy, Vega outlined his career, values and initiatives he had worked on as a councilor and as a rep.  He hold the 5th Hampden House seats, which covers the city of Holyoke exclusively and entirely.

Rep. Vega with fellow freshman Rep. Jon Zlotnik on swearing-in day 2013 (via Facebook/Jeffrey BPhotography)

A member of the Legislature’s Higher Education committee, Vega noted the commonwealth’s commitment to education from before kindergarten up through college.  However, there was also important work yet to be done on the subject including making higher education more affordable.

The son of the late Holyoke community activist, Carlos Vega, the freshman state rep had spent a great deal of his career before politics outside of the area including stints in filmmaking in New Hampshire and New York.  He and his wife opened a yoga studio in 2008, a business like those that municipal boosters have pointed to as proof of the city’s potential and more recently its resurgence.  The Vegas became among the earlier members of CRUSH or Citizens for the Revitalization and Urban Success of Holyoke.

Vega was initially elected to the City Council in 2009.   He won reelection in 2011 and then sought to take on then-Rep Michael Kane in the Democratic primary. Kane resigned from the legislature before the primary to take a job in the private sector.  Republican Linda Vega, a Council colleague of Vega’s, and Green-Rainbow Party nominee Jerome Hobert, faced off with Vega in the general, which he won handily.

Vega served as an at-large City Councilor in Holyoke from 2010-2013 (WMassP&I)

Vega served as an at-large City Councilor in Holyoke from 2010-2013 (WMassP&I)

Vega kept his Council seat until it expired this January following the 2013 municipal election in Holyoke.  During the summer after Michael Knapik resigned from the Senate, Vega had toyed with seeking the seat a special election, but opted to stay put.

Reflecting on what he had learned about over his four years in politics, he said the job entails building relationships both in the community and with colleagues.  However, it also requires advocacy such as on college tuition or addressing the chronic skills gap in Western Massachusetts.

“Let me continue to be your advocate,” Vega said.  Citing efforts to bring as many as 25 of his colleagues to tour the Paper City or a panel guns to his city, Vega declared, “I have worked to bring Boston closer to Holyoke and Holyoke closer to Boston.”

“I ask you to today for your support and your belief, not in me, but in we—that we can build a better Holyoke, a stronger Commonwealth and continue the work that is in front of us,” he said in closing.

Vega thanked supporters as well as his wife, Debra, and newborn son, Odin (who napped through most of the event).  He also extended thanks to his adult daughters who could not attend, but who, as Vega suggested, were probably sleeping in like Odin.