2018 Election Roundup, Part 1

I’ve been planning an election-round-up blog post but was going to do it closer to election day. Then I was reminded that early voting is already under way: in Massachusetts it started this past Monday and continues through November 2, mostly on weekdays; check your town clerk or other local election official for times and place.

I’ll be voting on THE DAY myself, mainly because in my town voting is easy and even fun. Voting everywhere should be as easy as it is in my town, but it isn’t. On the first day of early voting in Georgia last week, some voters had to wait in line for three hours or more, and if you’ve followed the news you know that this is so not the worst thing going on in Georgia. Georgia is one of two states (the other is Kansas) where the Republican secretary of state — the official in charge of all things electoral — is running for governor and fails to acknowledge that there’s a conflict of interest involved.

OK, here goes. Some weeks ago Massachusetts residents should have received the secretary of state’s handy-dandy election guide in the mail. If you didn’t or you’ve lost it, you can find it here. It lists the offices that will be on the ballot but not the names of the candidates. The list of candidates is on the secretary of state’s website, but you’ll have to do some scrolling to find the more local races.

FYI, if you live on Martha’s Vineyard, you’re in the 9th Congressional District; the Cape & Islands state senate district; the Barnstable Dukes Nantucket state house of representatives district; and District 1 for the Governor’s Council. For the more local races, like clerk of courts and county commissioner, you’re in Dukes County. Near the bottom of the page is the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Party affiliation is not given for the MVC candidates because this is a nonpartisan race.

Let’s start at the top of the ticket: governor and lieutenant governor. No, let’s start before we get to the top of the ticket. In fact, if you want to save time, you can skip this entire post and wait for Part 2, which will deal with the three ballot questions and (here’s hoping) be out tomorrow. In what follows, I strongly suggest that you vote Democratic all the way down the ballot. “Vote for the person, not the party” is often taken as a sign of discernment and sagacity. Not this year. This year, when it comes to the GOP, a vote for the Republican is a vote for the party — a vote for the party of voter suppression, attempts to deprive people of access to affordable health care and women of reproductive choice, tax cuts for the rich, inhuman(e) treatment of migrant families, climate-change denial, ongoing rollback of enviromental protections, and the ugliest white-supremacist rhetoric I’ve heard since the heyday of Bull Connor and George Wallace.

In Massachusetts this year, this is not a theoretical issue. Our Republican governor is widely thought to be OK — “pretty good for a Republican” is the phrase I heard often when collecting nomination signatures for Democratic candidates early this year. Trouble is, given the rising swamp of chaos and incompetence in Washington, the states are our first line of defense. For some of the evidence that Gov. Baker has not risen to the occasion, see the handy Sorry, Charlie website. On the “person, not party” thing: Gov. Baker claims to be pro-choice and pro–civil liberties, but he endorsed Geoff Diehl for the U.S. Senate. Diehl ran Trump’s campaign in Massachusetts. If he goes to Washington, is there any reason to believe that he won’t be in Mitch McConnell’s pocket?

Fortunately, we have a great alternative: Jay Gonzalez for governor and Quentin Palfrey for lieutenant governor. I’ve been following the governor’s race since I heard all three Democratic candidates speak at the 2017 state Democratic convention. Jay moved to the head of the pack for me because of his background in health-care access and statewide budget and administration, his commitment to virtually all the issues I care about, and his emphasis on leadership, which is sorely lacking at present. Please vote for these guys, and encourage your friends to do likewise.

I’m wholeheartedly supporting U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Attorney General Maura Healey for re-election. They’ve been on the front lines defending commonwealth and country against the Trump administration, and Healey really has become the “people’s lawyer” she set out to be when first elected in 2014.

With considerably less fervor I’m also backing the re-election bids of William “Bill” Galvin for secretary of state and Bill Keating for U.S. Congress from the 9th Congressional District (MA-09 in political shorthand). The secretary of state’s office could use a good kick in the pants in making voting more accessible, but given what Republican secretaries of state are up to across the country, it’s clear that supporting a Republican is not the answer. Keating has been a lazy-ass congressman, but any improvement is going to come from the Democratic side, not the Republican. Besides, Keating has been showing some signs of life lately, possibly to avoid getting primaried like his colleagues Michael Capuano (MA-07) and Joe Crowley (NY-14).

State Representative Dylan Fernandes speaks; State Senator Julian Cyr (left) listens at a fundraiser for Julian this past spring.

I’m actively campaigning to re-elect our excellent state senator, Julian Cyr. For some reasons why, see my previous blog post, “Vote Like Housing Matters.” Our equally excellent state rep, Dylan Fernandes, is running unopposed, but make sure you mark his name on the ballot anyway.

I confess I know very little about Deborah Goldberg and Suzanne Bump, running for re-election as state treasurer and state auditor, respectively, but they’re Democrats and I haven’t heard anything bad about either of them, so I’m voting for both.

Ditto Democrat Joseph Ferreira, running for re-election to the Governor’s Council from District 1. Every time election day rolled around, my Democratic father would say that the Governor’s Council should be abolished. It still exists, and I’m not sure exactly what they do, but I believe it involves proposing judges for judicial appointments. Upshot is that I’m planning to vote for this guy.

The incumbent district attorney is running unopposed. I haven’t heard good things about him, he’s a Republican, and so I’m leaving that one blank.

Note: This is from the primary. General election date is Nov. 6! Early voting is currently in progress.

Coming closer to home — to the County of Dukes County, to be specific — T. George Davis is superbly qualified for the many-faceted job of clerk of courts, which is why I’ve been supporting him ever since he threw his hat in the ring. He handily turned back a strong primary challenge. His independent challenger in the general election has no legal experience to speak of and seems to think it’s not necessary. Just about everyone I’ve talked with disagrees.

Daphne DeVries, the acting register of probate, also fended off a strong primary challenge. Now she’s running unopposed. It’s time to remove the “acting” from her job title and make her the titular register of probate.

As a write-in primary candidate, Keith earned enough votes with homemade signs and word-of-mouth to get himself on the November ballot.

There are eight candidates running for seven slots on the Dukes County Commission. I don’t pay all that much attention to the commission except when things (figuratively) blow up at the county airport, but I do commend to your attention John Cahill, Gretchen Tucker Underwood, Tristan Israel, Leon Brathwaite, and especially Keith Chatinover. Keith is a young activist who graduated last spring from the M.V. Public Charter School; he’s delayed his college admission till February so he can campaign full-time for a New Jersey congressional candidate. Can he combine an undergraduate course load with serving as a county commissioner? I suspect he can, and that both his coursework and the commission will benefit.

Nine seats are up for grabs on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and not only are only nine candidates running, they fit the town distribution that the MVC requires: at least one from each island town, but no more than two from any island town. You can vote for all nine if you want, but you don’t have to. I plan to vote for Christina Brown, Josh Goldstein, Richard Toole, and Jim Vercruysse. (Contrary to popular belief, commissioners are elected at large; in other words, you can vote for candidates from any town no matter what town you live in.)

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About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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5 Responses to 2018 Election Roundup, Part 1

  1. Two good guys running for office is soooo much better than the “lesser of two evils”! I am thinking the Vineyard is very lucky in these times…

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    • We had two good guys running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, Quentin Palfrey and Jimmy Tingle, and I’m here to tell you it was hard choosing between the two. Which I had to do twice, first at the Democratic state convention in June and again in the September primary.

      Their platforms were very similar. Palfrey had the more conventional political experience (in all the right places), but Jimmy brought not only high intelligence but lived experience, superior skills as a communicator, and a freshness and credibility that I thought could be well used in the lieutenant governor’s slot, especially as a balance to Jay Gonzalez, who is personable and smart but also a policy wonk (in a good way) with a track record of building coalitions around difficult issues. In the end.

      I wound up voting for Jimmy twice, and both times I was on the fence until almost the last minute. For a 25-words-or-less explanation I say my head argued for Palfrey, my heart for Jimmy, and my heart won. 🙂 In the end what probably tipped the balance was the way Jimmy talks about recovery, both his own and his public-policy commitment to making it possible for everyone. The GOP has become the equivalent of both a belligerent drunk and the drug that many USians believe will make their problems go away. Those of us who are trying to intervene could learn a lot from the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

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  2. Juleann VanBelle says:

    I’m sorry to read your take on Governor Charlie Baker. Any hope of salvaging our “democracy” depends on having moderate candidates from both major parties — candidates who are willing to find common ground, who will listen to differing views and consider solutions outside their party platform.

    Like they say in Pilates, strengthen your core — and the core is the middle. The more strident views at either end are needed too, but not at the expense of a healthy center which serves as the foundation of a functioning government.

    I believe the two-party system is flawed and the source of much of our current divisiveness, but it’s doubtful that will change any time soon. We need the Republican party to return to some semblance of health and sanity. In order to do that we need to support Republicans who understand how dire the situation is and will work to make changes. I remain hopeful that Charlie Baker is capable of putting country above party. I am voting for him because Massachusetts needs a moderate Republican who has access to party leadership at the federal level. To give that up now is at our peril.

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    • This sounds lovely in theory, but how do you see it coming to pass on the ground? Where are these Republican moderates going to come from? Those who ran in GOP primaries did not fare well: they were defeated by avid Trump supporters and Tea Party types. Two U.S. Senate “moderates” — Flake of AZ and Corker of TN — decided not to run for re-election. During the Kavanaugh hearings, Sen. Flake said he wouldn’t have dared call for an FBI investigation had he been running again, and even so he caved and toed the GOP party line when it came to the vote. In both AZ and TN the GOP candidates running are more extreme than the incumbents they seek to replace. The contortions that Sen. Susan Collins (who isn’t up for re-election this year) went through in justifying her vote to confirm Kavanaugh were painful to watch.

      Moderate Republican Richard Painter is now a Democrat. Several moderate Republican commentators and operatives are raising their very well-informed voices in the media — thinking especially of Jennifer Rubin, Steve Schmidt, and Rick Wilson in particular — but what effect are they having on the GOP as it now exists? Not much. At least they’re assuring the rest of us that the entire Republican Party hasn’t taken leave of its senses. Note, however, that some of them, caught in the moderate “middle,” don’t identify as Republicans anymore.

      I don’t put huge stock in polls, but over the months many of the more reputable ones have been showing that indeed the GOP is shrinking and in the process becoming more monolithic and more extreme — apparently because the “moderates” (those who don’t support the party’s current direction) no longer identify as Republican. And no way is this the fault of Democrats, liberals, and progressives. There is little room for “moderates” in today’s GOP. How do you propose to change this?

      More to the point, how do you see Charlie Baker and others of his ilk changing this? A substantial part of the GOP base even in supposedly blue Massachusetts see him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only). In the primary his far-right Christian fundamentlist challenger, Scott Lively, got 36% of the vote. What influence do you see Baker having on “party leadership at the federal level”? For sure I’m not seeing much. The influence seems to be in the other direction: not only does Baker depend on GOP money and “dark money,” he helps raise money for the national GOP. That money is not going to encourage moderation or bipartisan cooperation in the Republican Party.

      If Baker had a really impressive track record as governor, and if Jay Gonzalez were only a so-so challenger, I might actually consider voting for Baker. But Baker’s record is at best mediocre, and Jay has a realistically progressive platform, a solid track record, and demonstrated skill in forming coalitions and negotiating with a variety of stakeholders across ideological and economic spectrums.

      And given what the GOP has become, I’d seriously hesitate to vote for anyone affiliated with it, no matter how stellar, except on the most local level. The current administration and the GOP in both houses of Congress have demonstrated such total disregard for the rule of law, the Constitution, and the well-being of the whole country that I just can’t see any good coming out of it. The moderates I see are all running (and often winning) as Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp, Conor Lamb, Doug Jones, Danny O’Connor, Jon Tester . . .

      I plan to vote Democratic from the top of the ticket to the bottom, in large part because for each and every office I see the Democrat as the superior candidate but also because I see support for the Democrats as the only way to support bipartisan cooperation. At the national level cooperation isn’t happening because the Republicans choose not to cooperate, and it really does take two to make it happen.

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      • Juleann VanBelle says:

        Yes – to most all of the above. Except I would add Max Boot, Michael Steele, Bill Crystal, Charlie Sykes, Nicole Wallace, Elise Jordan . . . and many others. I would like to start a fan club for Richard Painter. He is wonderfully hilarious and smart.

        Still, our government never functions well when a single party is in control, the current situation at the federal level being a prime example. It’s simply not healthy. In Massachusetts, the Democrats are notorious for getting Very Little Done when they are in charge of the whole kit-and-caboodle. Many of the issues listed in “Sorry, Charlie” have been problems for decades and successfully left unaddressed by Democratic administrations – the MBTA and corruption within the State Police to name an easy two.

        Bi-partisan cooperation IS a two-way street, but IMO the Democrats do not demonstrate any more skill at this task than the Republicans. Elizabeth Warren refused to even meet with Brett Kavanaugh (or Neil Gorsuch). The Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee publicly declare their voting position before hearings even start. I understand they know these judges and have good reason for their decision, but I still think it is bad form and a strategic mistake. At least act open-minded, act willing to listen.

        I believe much of the support for Trump – his appalling conduct and intention to divide – comes from people who have felt unheard and whose needs have not been tended to for several administrations. I don’t understand why they choose to vote against their self-interests, but I do understand why they feel unheard and disregarded by the Democratic Party. [It’s exactly how I felt toward the Republicans by the end of the Kavanaugh hearing.] The Democrats have blatantly refused to acknowledge the fear that motivates their anger and to modify their message in response to that fear.

        Until both parties show a willingness to find the gray areas in the middle where cooperation has room to exist, we cannot expect any relief from the stress of the current situation.

        Finally, Charlie Baker is the only Republican who represents me. If he gets booted out of office I will not have anyone to call (in that party) to express my worry and pain. And, the people in his office who take my calls are very kind, patient and understanding. 🙂

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