With less than a week to go until the state Democratic primary, the three party candidates for governor have kicked it into high gear to sway undecided voters when they go to the polls next Tuesday.
Candidates Chris Gabrieli, Deval Patrick and state Attorney General Tom Reilly recently exchanged barbs at a forum hosted by local minority groups in Roxbury, made numerous public appearances and buffeted the airwaves with their advertisements.
What may be lost in the political whirlwind is that the campaigns of all three candidates were paid for, in very small part, by fundraisers held on the Vineyard this summer. And while the amount raised here was only a drop in the bucket for each candidate's war chest, the events - all hosted by Island residents - allowed residents to meet the candidates and put a face to the name when they go to the polls on Sept. 19.
The Vineyard has a rich legacy of political fund-raising and this summer alone was the venue for separate events that raised money for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic party.
But the events this summer for the three candidates for governor represent a trend that is both new and old in Island fund-raising, one that forgoes the $1,000 or more a plate dinner in favor of smaller, more casual affairs, with no donation required in order to attend.
And unlike the fundraisers for national candidates, which are usually attended by people who own summer homes on the Island, the events for the gubernatorial candidates were attended primarily by year-round residents.
The fundraiser for Chris Gabrieli hosted by Robert Sawyer, a Dukes County commissioner and active member of the Democratic party, wasn't really a fundraiser at all but what is called a meet and greet, an opportunity for people to get to know the candidate and ask questions.
"If they liked Mr. Gabrieli and what he had to say, they could make a donation. If they weren't so sure, they didn't have to," Mr. Sawyer said.
Mr. Sawyer said the model is better suited to the working class, year-round Island residents who often cannot afford to attend the higher profile events.
"One of the great social tragedies is the high cost it takes to win an election. But that's a fact of life - the candidates have to raise money to even run. But one of the results is that it costs a lot of money to go to these events," Mr. Sawyer said.
Mr. Sawyer said he has heard from people who have grown frustrated with the number of fundraisers on the Island. Mailing lists spawn more mailing lists. As a result, even some hard core Democrats have adopted an attitude of enough is enough, Mr. Sawyer said.
He said some candidates and campaign managers think the Vineyard is stocked with wealthy Democrats eager to donate to the latest campaign. But that notion does not apply to the year-round community, which is largely middle class families struggling to keep up with the high cost of living.
"It's no secret that the people who attend the larger fundraisers for national candidates are mostly summer and seasonal people, because they can afford it," Mr. Sawyer said.
Richard Knabel, a West Tisbury Democrat who hosted a meet and greet event for John Bonifaz, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state, agreed. Mr. Knabel said he understands the need for candidates to raise money, but said the frequent fundraisers put a drain on loyal Democrats here on the Island. Many want to be good party members and attend as many fundraisers as possible, but simply can't afford it.
"I think even the candidates would recoil from some of this aggressive arm-twisting that is going on. It's clearly a solicitation. Nobody is bashful about asking for money these days. I grew up in a culture where asking for money from another person was rather rude," he said.
Ronald Rappaport, an Island attorney and active member of the Democratic party, hosted an informal fundraiser for Mr. Reilly, who is running neck and neck with his two opponents in the race for the party nomination to run for governor.
Mr. Rappaport said the event, by design, was very relaxed in both spirit and in dress. Mr. Reilly has many friends on the Island, and the event served as a sort of homecoming, Mr. Rappaport said. There was no suggested donation amount for those who attended, and Mr. Reilly spend most of the event mingling with guests and answering questions.
Most of the people who attended were year-round Islanders, Mr. Rappaport said.
"I think you will find a different crowd at the fundraiser for some of the national figures then you will find at the event for Thomas Reilly. The people who live here year-round usually attend events for people they may vote for," Mr. Rappaport said.
But Frank Biondi, a longtime seasonal resident of Edgartown and former California entertainment executive, said the fundraiser he and his wife Carol hosted for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was also a comparatively casual affair where people had a chance to ask Mrs. Clinton questions and meet the former President.
"Both [Hillary and Bill] meet with anyone who wants to speak with them. It's very informative, but also very informal. There are very strict campaign laws about what you can and can't do at a fundraiser," Mr. Biondi said.
He said he and his wife, who is an old friend of Mrs. Clinton, have hosted seven fundraisers for her campaign.
Mr. Biondi said most of the discussion with the Clintons revolved around national issues.
"Its an opportunity for people to get to know [the Clintons] - past what they see on television and read in the newspaper," he said.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard University business professor and longtime seasonal resident of Edgartown, has attended fundraisers for both state and national candidates on the Vineyard. She said she understands the appeal of holding a fundraiser here, not just because people are willing to donate, but because of the concentration of influential people who spend time on the Island in the summer.
But she said many Islanders, both year-round and seasonal alike, prefer other activities to fundraisers.
"There is still, and will always be, a spirit of preferring events with friends and family then attending a political function. This is Martha's Vineyard, not New York city - and people come here to get away from things like politics," Ms. Kanter said.