State Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke will not seek fifth term in House

  • Joseph McGiverin, right, receives a proclamation from state Rep. Aaron Vega after receiving the William G. Dwight Award on Nov. 21, 2019 at the Delaney House in Holyoke.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • State Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke. AARON VEGA STATE REP/FACEBOOK

Staff Writer
Published: 1/28/2020 3:57:13 PM

HOLYOKE — State Rep. Aaron Vega, who has served as the city’s lawmaker in the state House of Representatives since 2013, announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in November. 

Vega's decision to step down marks his fourth term serving the 5th Hampden District as his last, however, the 49-year-old Democrat said that his work serving his home is far from over.

“I want to focus on western Massachusetts,” Vega said, citing higher education, food insecurity and workforce development as issues he wants to concentrate on in the region. “We deal with a lot of issues at the state level and I want to focus on things locally.”

On the day of Vega’s announcement, his longtime legislative aide Patricia Duffy filed paperwork with the state to form a candidate’s committee for the 5th Hampden District seat. Duffy, of Holyoke, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. 

Before serving in the State House, Vega was first elected to the Holyoke City Council in 2009 as one of the city’s first Latino at-large councilors. Born in South Holyoke, Vega attended Holyoke Community College before earning a dual bachelor’s degree from Keene State College, eventually becoming a film editor. His late father, Carlos Vega, served as executive director of Holyoke-based Nueva Esperanza and was an admired community organizer.

Vega said his decision to step down was influenced by his desire to spend more time with his 6-year-old son, Odin, and his wife, Debra. He said he has no concrete plans for a new job following the expiration of his term in the Legislature in January 2021, but said he’s interested in working in higher education as he’s served on Joint Committee on Higher Education for the past six years.

“I think I can bring a lot with the skill set I have and the relationships I’ve made," Vega said about his undetermined career trajectory after he leaves office, before adding, “I still have 11 months to find a job.”

As for his time as a state representative, Vega said he’s most proud of the $1.5 billion Student Opportunity Act signed into law last year — a landmark piece of school funding legislation that was largely based on the PROMISE Act, which was introduced in part by Vega. 

He also pointed to his time working on the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy where he focused on social equity in the marijuana marketplace.

“You don’t really get to start a new industry that often, so that was really exciting,” Vega said. 

Vega said he’s grateful for the relationships he’s made with people across the state during his time working on Beacon Hill, saying “the best memories are the people there.”

He remembers trips he took with his colleagues to Israel and Seattle where they learned from other communities about their culture and the challenges they face.

“Those kinds of experiences bring you out of the State House and show you other places,” Vega said.

Vega said his replacement will have to remain a voice for western Massachusetts in Boston on the issue of transportation. He referenced a transportation bill that may result in a higher gas tax to raise money for additional transportation projects.

“The gas tax hits people in western Massachusetts more swiftly than people in Boston,” he said.

He also said the next representative will have to “protect” Holyoke Medical Center, as Vega said it is one of the last remaining community hospitals in the state. 

Nomination papers for Vega’s seat will be available from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Western District Office in Springfield beginning Feb. 11.

Duffy, who filed paperwork Tuesday with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance to form a candidate’s committee, has served as a legislative aide for Vega since January 2014, according to her LinkedIn account.  Formerly of South Hadley, Duffy in 2002 narrowly lost an election against former state Rep. John Scibak in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Hampshire District, which represents Easthampton, South Hadley, Hadley and part of Granby. 

Vega said he hopes that he has inspired others to pay attention and get involved in local politics, whether that means they run for office themselves or work for someone else’s campaign. 

“I hope people see that local politics is important,” Vega said. 

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

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