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State Sen. Dan Wolf won at least a temporary reprieve on Wednesday from a state Ethics Commission ruling that could force the Harwich Democrat to quit the Legislature and end his campaign for governor.
Wolf, in a statement, said the commission had extended a 30-day deadline it had previously given him to choose between his political career and his continued ownership interest in Cape Air, the regional airline he helped create 25 years ago.
The commission, Wolf said, agreed to discuss the matter at its next meeting on Sept. 19.
"Until then, I will remain as State Senator for the Cape and Islands with hopes of a positive resolution to this matter, which would also allow me to resume my gubernatorial campaign," Wolf said.
Wolf suspended his campaign and earlier said he would resign "under duress" from the Senate on Thursday unless the commission reconsidered its Aug. 2 opinion, which argued that he was in violation of state conflict-of-interest rules because Cape Air has contracts with Boston's Logan International Airport. The airport is operated by the Massachusetts Port Authority.
The commission gave Wolf three options: relinquish his 23 percent ownership stake in Cape Air; pull the airline out of Logan; or leave the Senate and abandon his gubernatorial bid.
Wolf rejected the first two options as too damaging to the airline and its employees, and to him personally.
The commission's ruling has drawn criticism across the political spectrum, with many critics contending that Wolf was essentially being punished for his private sector achievements. Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, have come to Wolf's defense and urged him to remain in the Senate and dozens of his Cape Cod constituents planned to support him at a Statehouse rally on Thursday.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses, while acknowledging policy disagreements with the liberal Democrat, said in a letter to the commission that its ruling, unless clarified, would have a "chilling effect" on other business leaders who might consider running for political office in Massachusetts.
In his statement, Wolf said he would petition the panel to adopt a regulation "that would allow and even encourage citizens from many walks of life to enter public service while protecting the public from any potential conflicts or undue influence."
The petition would not challenge the commission's previous interpretation of existing law, he said.
Wolf has maintained that Cape Air's contracts with Logan are not competitively bid and that the airline pays fixed fees, meaning his position as a public official offers no inherent advantage to the company.
The Senate does not approve funding for Massport and infrequently votes on bills that directly impact the semi-independent agency. If elected governor, however, Wolf would appoint members of Massport's board of directors and a secretary of transportation who would serve as the board's chairman.
The Ethics Commission has refrained from commenting publicly on its opinion other than to dispute Wolf's contention that it had earlier led him to believe that Cape Air's contracts with Logan were not a conflict of interest.
This article was originally published on August 28, 2013.
This program aired on August 28, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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