I’ve been trying hard not to give in to apocalyptic rhetoric this election season, but these much-quoted words from Lord of the Rings keep running through my head: “But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless–as we surely shall, if we sit here,–and know as we die that no new age shall be.”
We’re not going into battle, only into the voting booth. Two roads lead out from the other side. One is veiled in mist and fog; we can’t see more than a mile or two forward, but the sun is shining on the other side. The other road leads into a mosquito-infested swamp.
I doubt anyone reading this has chosen the latter road, though probably a few are reluctant to set foot on the much more promising one. So I’ll just say “I’m with her” and have been for about a year now, ever since it dawned on me that my intense dislike of Bill Clinton (a) was not entirely rational, and (b) had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.
A major sign for me is that a new age is already coming into existence is the caliber of the candidates running for local office. This year I’m better informed and have met more of the candidates in person than is usually the case. So here are my picks, along with a couple of hedges. At the end I explain how voting works for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), one of the great mysteries of Vineyard electoral politics.
Dylan Fernandes for state representative. You knew that already, right? Barnstable Dukes Nantucket is the most challenging house district in the state: two islands and a small chunk of the Cape Cod mainland. We have a lot in common, but we don’t know each other very well. Dylan, a Falmouth resident, has connections in all three places and has been expanding them with an inspiring grassroots campaign. His top priorities include the affordable housing crisis, the heroin-opioid epidemic, and the effects of climate change on our sea-level district. He’s accessible to his future constituents and well respected by both local officials and his future colleagues on Beacon Hill. Nuff said.
Julian Cyr for state senate. The Cape and Islands state senate district that both islands are in has four times the population of our house district. Having grown up in Truro, on the Lower (Outer) Cape, Julian knows the district well, and having been a deputy director of the state Department of Public Health, he also knows Beacon Hill. In addition to his public health background, he’s demonstrated his commitment to environmental protection, affordable housing, and equity and fairness for all.
Paulo DeOliveira for register of deeds. This is seriously a no-brainer. Paulo is currently the assistant register of deeds. The current register is retiring two years early because she thinks Paulo is that ready to take over. He’s respected by his co-workers and by many, many of the attorneys and real estate brokers who use the registry regularly. Please vote for him.
Neal Maciel for sheriff, probably. For me neither candidate stands out, and either will probably do an OK job. Here I give the edge to the outsider, who’s running unenrolled (i.e., with no party affiliation), because there’s enough dissatisfaction with the way the sheriff’s department has been run that “stay the course” doesn’t seem the best idea.
Undecided for 9th District congressman. At the head of our state ticket is Bill Keating, a four-term Democratic congressman whom a friend described, rather politely, as “a placeholder.” Unfortunately, his opponents in this election are an independent who’s nothing to write home about and a Republican who’s even less promising. In other words, you’re on your own, kids. I’m not sure what I’m going to do either, besides wish that Gerry Studds, who once represented us in Congress, were still around.
Martha’s Vineyard Commission. It’s a rare voter who understands how MVC elections work. The ballot says “vote for nine.” What it doesn’t say is that each of the six island towns must have at least one elected commissioner and no town can have more than two. This is why I wasn’t elected when I ran in 2012: I was 8th in total votes, but I was the 3rd highest from the town of West Tisbury and only the top two could serve. So don’t vote for more than two candidates from any one town, and if you’re strongly for someone, don’t vote for anyone else from the same town.
If there’s only one candidate running from a particular town, it’s safe to vote for that person because s/he’s going to be elected no matter what you do. This applies to Aquinnah, Chilmark, and Edgartown. Theoretically write-ins have a chance, but in practice incumbents (which these three commissioners are) have a huge edge, not least because they’re at the top of the list and each is identified as “candidate for re-election.”
My problem this year is that I’d happily trade one commissioner from my town of West Tisbury, where the pickings are slim, for one from Oak Bluffs, which has three good candidates running, none of them incumbents. I’m supporting Susan Desmarais, who I’ve gotten to know on the campaign trail. If I vote for a second candidate from OB, it’ll be either Brian Smith or Richard Toole. In other words, you’re on your own here too, but do pay attention to the candidates’ towns of residence. They’re listed on the ballot.