My Primary Picks

This post is for you, Massachusetts voters! Our primary is less than two weeks away — the day after Labor Day, and the day kids go back to school. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? No one in a summer-exhausted place like Martha’s Vineyard, that’s for sure.

Note for the TL:DR crowd (don’t worry, I get it: this is a long post!): Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll find my recommendations and nothing but my recommendations.

Back before I fell in with Democrats in 2016, the primary would roll around at the end of the summer and I’d barely know who was on the ballot. I’d be like your college student who hasn’t been to class all semester and just started the reading yesterday. This year? Well, for me primary season began a whole year ago. I’ve met most of the candidates, virtually if not in person. I’ve heard all of them speak at least once, and I’ve digested a slew of campaign materials. Since I can only vote once, I’m writing this blog to put all that information to good use.

Thanks to the VOTES Act passed earlier this year, making most of the temporary COVID-19 measures permanent, mail-in voting has already begun. Early in-person voting starts this Saturday, Aug. 27, which is also the last day you can register to vote in the primary. Everyone reading this is already registered, right? Right??

The late Travvy campaigns for Dylan Fernandes and Julian Cyr in 2018. They’re running unopposed in their respective primaries, but definitely vote for them.

If you’re on the Vineyard, your town clerk knows everything there is to know about where and when to vote.

You can check your registration status here on the secretary of state’s website — not a bad idea, especially if you’ve moved recently — and you can register to vote, change your registration, or twist the arm of anyone you know who just doesn’t have time to get registered here. Massachusetts is an open-primary state, which means that if you’re not enrolled in any party, you can take any party’s primary ballot. Hint: The Democrats have some excellent candidates running, and we have contested primary races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, and Dukes County sheriff.

Uncontested Primary Races

Several of my favorites have no primary opponents. Martha’s Vineyard is represented by have two of the best state legislators in the commonwealth, Julian Cyr in the state senate and Dylan Fernandes in the house, so you bet I’m endorsing them. As you can see above, the late Travvy was an enthusiastic campaigner. You’ll probably see Tam Lin out there one of these days.

Cape & Islands District Attorney

Rob Galibois and me at the Vineyard’s first-ever Pride celebration in June 2022. Photo by Nikki Paratore Galibois.

Also unopposed in the primary, though not in the November election, is Rob Galibois, candidate for Cape & Islands district attorney. The outgoing Republican DA ran unopposed for years, despite his lackluster performance. Efforts to recruit a good Democrat paid off when Rob stepped up to run. We couldn’t ask for a better candidate. He has extensive experience as both a prosecutor (he was an assistant DA in the Cape & Islands DA’s office from 1997 to 2003) and a defense attorney.

As DA he intends to develop “diversion” programs to help people, especially young people, veterans, and people with mental health issues, stay out of the court system. Since so many of us are at best dimly aware of what the DA’s office does, he also wants to prioritize community involvement by creating a “community engagement officer” position and by encouraging attorneys and staff to volunteer a few hours a month in their communities. Much more about Rob’s plans and priorities can be found on his website.

Dukes County Sheriff

I’m backing, rooting for, and otherwise supporting the incumbent, Sheriff Robert (Bob) Ogden, who’s running for his second six-year-term. He’s done well in addressing the myriad challenges of a demanding job. These go beyond the obvious law-enforcement tasks — keep in mind that each of the six island towns has its own police department — to include running the Communications Center and maintaining the county jail and courthouse, both of which date back to the 19th century and need extensive repair and renovation. This involves much politicking on the state level.

Bob’s opponent, Erik Blake, recently retired as Oak Bluffs police chief and is by all accounts a good guy, but after hearing both men speak twice, I’m not sure Erik is well prepared for this aspect of the job. I also haven’t heard Erik make a case for why we should discharge Bob and hire him instead.

The Martha’s Vineyard League of Women Voters is hosting a forum featuring the two candidates on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Oak Bluffs library. The recording will be broadcast on MVTV afterward.

Statewide Races

Governor

Attorney General Maura Healey speaks to an MV Dems meeting in July 2017. That’s our state rep, Dylan Fernandes, at left. He ran her campaign for attorney general in 2014 and worked in her office before he was elected to the legislature in 2016.

I’d bet good money that Maura Healey, our standout attorney general since 2015, is going to be our next governor, and I think she’ll be a good one. However, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz is also on the ballot, although she ended her campaign in late June. I supported her at the Democratic state convention earlier that month, and I’m going to vote for her in the primary. Why? Well, when Sonia spoke to the Martha’s Vineyard Democrats last December, she said of Beacon Hill political culture that “it lacks a critical ingredient, and that ingredient is urgency.” She noted that our state legislature is dominated by “powerful people who are convinced that we can afford to go slow.” Those people are virtually all Democrats. They and the rest of the Democratic establishment are going to be exerting continual pressure on Governor Healey to go slow. Massachusetts does not need a Democratic Charlie Baker. We need to continually remind our future governor and the rest of the Democratic leadership of that. I’m starting with my primary vote.

Lieutenant Governor

In an election cycle with no shortage of excellent candidates, the lieutenant governor field has stood out. Going into the state convention, there were five contending for the nomination. My favorite, State Senator Adam Hinds, didn’t get the 15% necessary to qualify for a spot on the primary ballot, so I’m urging a vote for the guy who was my close second, State Senator Eric Lesser.

That’s State Senator Eric Lesser on the left.

Something Adam and Eric have in common is that they’re both from western Mass. This matters. Pay attention to state politics, especially as filtered through the Boston-based media, and you’ll realize how metro-Boston-centric it is. The world beyond 495 might as well be in North Dakota, and that includes the Cape & Islands as well as the western half of the state.

Eric has been a leader in the fight to establish high-speed rail from Boston to Pittsfield, something that will help link one end of the state to the other and also have huge implications for mitigating climate change, alleviating the state’s housing crisis, and promoting economic development. He’s also got a solid record on other issues, including dealing with the pandemic and the opioid crisis. There’s a lot more about Eric’s priorities on his website.

What does the lieutenant governor do, anyway? Good question! The office’s main constitutional responsibility is presiding over the Governor’s Council, a little-known body that has the important task of providing “advice and consent” to nominations to the state bench and various boards. The lieutenant governor works closely with the governor and can fill in as needed, but they have plenty of leeway to develop the job as the commonwealth’s needs and their own priorities decree.

Secretary of State

Tanisha Sullivan

In most states, including Massachusetts, the secretary of state oversees elections. The Trump administration and Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election showed us how crucial this office is, which is why the GOP is working hard across the country to stack it with election deniers and those who want to make voting harder for populations that tend to vote Democratic: young people, people of color, etc., etc. No danger of that happening here, but our longtime secretary of state, Bill Galvin, dragged his feet on reforms to make voting more accessible, more accurate, and safer — until COVID-19 forced his hand. The temporary measures instituted in 2020 led to the highest voter turnout in our state’s history. Most of them were made permanent earlier this year by the VOTES Act, and guess who’s acting as if he was in favor of them all along?

Tanisha Sullivan is, no question, my pick for secretary of state, and not just because her speech at the state Democratic convention in June was electrifying. The secretary of state is in charge of more than elections, and Tanisha intends to be the commonwealth’s “chief democracy officer,” ensuring that public records are accurate, complete, and accessible. Since Massachusetts ranks near the bottom of the 50 states on transparency and accountability, this is crucial. When it comes to registering a business, very small businesses currently pay the same fees as very large corporations. Tanisha sees leveling the playing field for small business as crucial to building a thriving economy that benefits everyone. For more about her plans for the secretary of state’s office, check out her website.

Tanisha is a small business owner herself; she holds both an MBA and a JD, and since 2017 she’s been president of the Boston branch of the NAACP.

Attorney General

I was in Andrea Campbell‘s camp before current AG Maura Healey announced her support, so that wasn’t what persuaded me, but seriously — when the person who knows the job best endorses a candidate running to succeed her, I pay attention. Andrea has also been endorsed by my state senator, Julian Cyr, whose opinion I respect, U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of MA, and quite a few others whose names you’d probably recognize.

Andrea Campbell

Andrea’s personal story is harrowing — and a key to her commitment to public service. When she was eight months old, her mother was killed in a car crash, en route to visit Andrea’s father, who was in prison. Andrea didn’t meet him till he got out when she was eight years old.

She credits her relatives, her community, and her teachers for helping her become the first member of her family to graduate first from college and then from law school. In 2015 she was elected to the Boston City Council; in 2018 she became its chair.

She brings to the attorney general’s office extensive familiarity with the challenges facing the commonwealth around transportation, health care, education, housing, and climate change. She plans to continue and expand the important work of the current AG’s office. For more about her priorities, see her website.

Auditor

Truth to tell, I haven’t made up my mind about the auditor’s race yet, in part because I’m still not entirely clear what’s part of the auditor’s job and what isn’t. IOW, how much of what the candidates are promising are actually within the scope — and the actual possibilities — of the job? I may add to this post in a few days. Meanwhile, you can check out the candidates’ websites for yourself: Chris Dempsey and Diana DiZoglio.

Treasurer

Incumbent Deb Goldberg is running unopposed in the primary, so that’s easy. You can learn more about her and what the treasurer does here.

Susanna’s Primary Picks

  • Governor: Sonia Chang-Díaz / Maura Healey
  • Lieutenant Governor: Eric Lesser
  • Secretary of State: Tanisha Sullivan
  • Attorney General: Andrea Campbell
  • Treasurer: Deb Goldberg
  • Auditor: still undecided
  • Dukes County Sheriff: Robert (Bob) Ogden
  • Cape & Islands DA: Rob Galibois
  • State Senate: Julian Cyr
  • State Representative: Dylan Fernandes

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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4 Responses to My Primary Picks

  1. David Fielder says:

    Very helpful, Susanna. Thank you. I’m inclined to go with Tammy Gouveia for Lt. Governor. Mostly because I know virtually nothing about Eric and was impressed with Tammy’s background and her answers to questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You pretty much can’t go wrong with the lieutenant governor’s race. Eric Lesser’s record is impressive, and I really want someone in the state leadership team who lives outside of 495. One thing I’ve learned in the last few years of following state politics is how hard it is for the Cape & Islands region to be heard on Beacon Hill. Western Mass. has the same problem. Julian Cyr and Adam Hinds (state senator from far western Mass.) call themselves “the hinterland caucus.” 😉

      Kim Driscoll, mayor of Salem, is also very well qualified, maybe overly qualified. She’s got administrative and managerial experience that neither Eric nor Tami does, but then again that isn’t as crucial for a lieutenant governor. My hunch, based on her competence and the number of political heavy hitters who’ve endorsed her, is that she’s being groomed (so to speak) for an eventual run for governor.

      Like

  2. Ellen T. Miller says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this excellent guide to why to vote for each of your picks and for clarifying what each office represents. With your permission I would like to forward it to a few people. Might I suggest you send it to the editors of the  Island papers?  Most of us are scratching our heads at primary time…Best always, Ellen 

    Ellen T. MillerP. O. Box 4456Vineyard Haven, MA, 02568508-693-7846*************************************It’s time to put the “civil” back in civilization…

    Liked by 1 person

    • By all means, share away! I’m going to be emailing various friends and acquaintances in the next few days with my recommendations and a link to the blog. I hadn’t thought of sending a link to the newspaper editors but I just might.

      Like

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