Pre-Election Prep Talk

I thought of titling this “The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good,” but (1) it’s too long, (2) it’s a cliché, and (3) I don’t always agree with it. However, when it comes to electoral politics, it’s a good axiom to keep in mind, not least because if “perfect” exists anywhere, it’s not in electoral politics. You’ll see why I considered that title in what follows.

Mail-in voting is already under way in Massachusetts. Early voting started today, Oct. 22. If you’re on the Vineyard, you can find early voting hours for all six towns and other essential info in this Martha’s Vineyard Times story. Registration deadline is this coming Saturday, Oct. 29, and the story includes a link to do that online. If you’re anywhere else in the commonwealth, contact your local election official. You can find almost everything else you need to know about the election on the secretary of state’s website. If you’re not in Massachusetts, Google!

This post is divided into statewide races, regional/local races, and ballot questions. The short version for all races is VOTE DEMOCRATIC, goddammit. This is true for virtually all races in mostly blue and even purple states. Plenty of people like to say “I vote for the person, not the party,” maybe because they think this makes them look thoughtful and independent. Once upon a time this might have been true, especially in states like Massachusetts and Maryland where competent, non-Trump Republicans could still get elected.

Democratic-leaning voters in deep red states, however, face a dilemma. Very likely the candidate with an R after their name is a Trumpish election denier who might also be batshit crazy. The candidate with a D after their name — if there is one — (1) might be the best person for the job, and (2) doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. I hear reports that in states like Montana and Utah, Democratic-leaning voters are campaigning and voting for Never-Trump Republicans running as independents. If you’re interested in salvaging and even growing our democracy, this is good strategy.

In Utah, this means supporting Evan Mullin, who is running as an independent against U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R), who supported the insurrection and is generally disgusting. Some of Mullin’s public statements do give me pause. If elected, he says he wouldn’t caucus with either party. (Two independents currently in the U.S. Senate, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both caucus with the Democrats. The Democratic majority being as slim as it is, you can see why this matters.) In a closely divided Senate, this might well give him the swing power of a Joe Manchin or a Kyrsten Simema: not good. Put it this way: If Evan Mullin were running in Massachusetts, I wouldn’t give him the time of day. If I lived in Utah, I would probably be campaigning for him.

The perfect is the enemy of the good — and in this case, diminishing the congressional power of the Trumpublicans is most definitely good.

Statewide Races

Tam campaigns for Maura Healey (governor) and Kim Driscoll (lieutenant governor).

Looking at the statewide Democratic ticket, my first thought is “Other states, eat your heart out.” Not only is it outstanding, all but one of the candidates on it are women. I supported several of them in “My Primary Picks” so you can learn more about some of them there. I was very impressed during the primary campaign by Kim Driscoll, who’s done an excellent job as mayor of Salem since 2006. Her only downside for me was being from inside not only 495 but 128, i.e., the metro Boston area, and other things being equal I’ll usually go for the candidate from further afield, like western Mass., the South Coast, or the Cape & Islands region, because we often aren’t seen from Beacon Hill, where the state government sits.

In the “perfect is the enemy of the good” department, my big disappointment in the primary was that Tanisha Sullivan lost her race against Bill Galvin, our longtime secretary of state. Galvin does the job but no more than that. He resisted such measures as mail-in voting and early voting till COVID-19 gave him a kick in the pants. Once upon a time I might have left the circle empty on my ballot, but this year? No. Across the country the Republicans are trying to shoehorn 2020 election deniers into secretary of state offices because in most states it’s the secretary of state who supervises elections. Note how important it was that Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, held the line against presure from Trump in 2020. You may like nothing else about Brad Raffensperger, but you’ve got to give him credit for that.

Even Maura Healey, the next governor of the commonwealth, is making me a little nervous. She’s been an excellent attorney general (first elected in 2014), and what’s not to like about a 5-foot-4 basketball point guard who played college ball at Harvard and professional ball in Austria? But she’s also been cagey about her plans, probably — I’m hoping — because she has to appeal to an electorate that loves outgoing two-term Republican governor Charlie Baker. More recently, when she endorsed 17 of the 19 state senate Dems running for re-election, one of the two she left out was State Sen. Becca Rausch, a progressive champion. Still no explanation for that. What it all means is that we need to keep the pressure on after the Healey-Driscoll ticket takes office in January.

Here’s the statewide list:

  • Governor/Lieutenant Governor: Maura Healey & Kim Driscoll
  • Attorney General: Andrea Campbell
  • Secretary of State: William Galvin (incumbent)
  • Auditor: Diana DiZoglio
  • Treasurer: Deborah Goldberg (incumbent)

Regional/Local Races

This Julian sign is showing its age (Julian, however, is not), probably since I’ve had it since he first ran for state senate in 20016.

Here in the Cape & Islands region, the races I’m focusing on are for Cape & Islands district attorny and state senate. State Senator Julian Cyr has a Republican opponent, but he’s also an incumbent (first elected in 2016) with an excellent track record and a good orgnaization.

Rob Galibois is a first-time candidate running for an office that’s been held by a Republican since it was established ca. 1970. I can’t remember the last time a Democrat was even on the ballot — maybe in 2002, the year the first holder of the office, Phil Rollins, retired? His successor, Michael O’Keefe, is not running for re-election.

Rob has extensive experience both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney; he’s got solid ideas about how to improve the equity, effectiveness, and community engagement of the office. See his website for specifics; scroll down to the Priorities section. And if you, like me at this time last year, are at best dimly aware of how important the DA’s office can be — and why in the Trump era it shouldn’t be held by a Republican — see the ACLU of Massachusetts’s web page “What a Difference a DA Makes.” Last January I attended an online program about this, and it’s because of this — and being involved in Rob’s campaign — that I know a lot more than I did a year ago. Unlike the outgoing DA, who barely knew the Vineyard existed, Rob has made solid connections over here and those are bound to continue and grow after he takes office.

I’ve been writing postcards for Rob.

Our excellent state represebtatuve, Dylan Fernandes (D–Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket) is running unopposed, and so is Robert (Bob) Ogden, the Dukes County sheriff, who handily won a hard-fought primary contest in September.

We on the Cape & Islands are part of the commonwealth’s 9th Congressional District. Our longtime congressman, Bill Keating, is running for re-election. He has a Republican opponent about whom I know nothing, but — I almost hate to say it — I’m not trying to learn more because no way would I ever vote for him.

So here’s the regional/local list if you’re on Martha’s Vineyard. The top three apply to the rest of the Cape & Islands as well.

  • Cape & Islands DA: Rob Galibois
  • State senator: Julian Cyr
  • Member in Congress: Bill Keating
  • State representative: Dylan Fernandes
  • Dukes County sheriff: Robert Ogden

As to the remaining offices on the ballot — well, I expect I’ll know more by election day, but at the moment here’s what I’m thinking:

For Dukes County Commission, there are six candidates running for seven seats, and since there are no more than two from any one town, it looks like they’ll all be elected. For sure I’m voting for Tristan Israel, Doug Ruskin, Christine Todd, and James Klingensmith. I expect to know more about the other two by the time I vote. Rumors of a write-in turned out to be true, so please write in Julianne Vanderhoop, 682 State Rd., Aquinnah. It helps to include the address, so write it on a slip of paper (or the palm of your hand) and take it with you when you go to vote.

For Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), there are eight candidates running for nine slots and no more than two from any one town, so I’m guessing they’ll all be elected too. IIRC there has to be at least one elected member from each town, and since there’s no one on the ballot from Aquinnnah, a write-in would have a good chance of getting the ninth seat. I’m enthusiastically voting for Ben Robinson and Christina Brown and also for Jeff Agnoli, about whom I don’t know as much but what I do know seems pretty good. I’ll probably vote for Trip Barnes because, well, Trip Barnes. I’ll most likely leave the other ovals blank, though I’m trying to learn more about Jay Grossman, the only non-incumbent on the ballot.

Late update on Nov. 2: There are two write-ins running for the MVC: Carole Vandal (6 Waduchuemesmayak,  Aquinnah) and Jennifer Smith Turner (Oak Bluffs, don’t have street address). A little strategy here: Because nine will be elected and there are only eight on the ballot, a write-in can be elected. However, since no candidate on the ballot is from Aquinnah and there must be at least one (but no more than two) from each town, Carole has an excellent chance of getting elected. So if you can only vote for write-in (maybe because you’re voting for all the candidates on the ballot), please consider voting for her. Jennifer is a longshot because there’s already an Oak Bluffs candidate on the ballot, and she’s very unlikely to out-poll him as a write-in. Me, I’m not voting for all the ballot candidates, so I’m voting for both write-ins.

About the representatives to the Up-Island Regional School Committee I’m still gathering info. Maybe I’ll update this post if I get enough. There are five candidates running for five seats, and since there’s at least one from each up-island town (West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah), I think they’ll all be elected. The two who aren’t top vote-getters from their town will become at-large members.

Ballot Questions

There are four questions on the statewide ballot. So far I’ve mustered very little interest in either #2 or #3. Question 2 would require insurance companies “to spend at least 83% of premiums on member dental expenses and quality improvements instead of administrative expense” and would make unspecified “other changes to dental insurance regulations” (that’s from the information booklet sent out early this past summer by the secretary of state’s office). I’m inclined to vote FOR anything the insurance companies are against, but on the other hand, although I have crappy teeth I have never had dental insurance because either it wasn’t available or it was too damn expensive. Do I blame the dentists for this or the American Medical Association? Not sure, but my loathing of insurance companies will probably win out over my resentment of the dental lobby, which is to say I expect to vote YES on #2. Here’s what the dentists have to say about it.

Question 3 is also pretty esoteric: it’s about expanding the number of liquor licenses a retailer can hold. Some are framing it as the smaller liquor stores against the big chains, but based on a little dabbling, I suspect that a larger issue lurks in the background: At present, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts alcoholic beverages can only be sold in what we like to call “package stores,” aka “packies.” The food stores would love to be able to sell at least beer and wine, but of course those benefiting from the status quo don’t like this idea at all. The food store lobby hasn’t been active in this particular fight, but the VOTE NO text in the secretary of state’s booklet urges us to push for more extensive reform of the liquor laws. It’s signed by “Food Stores for Consumer Choice.” If you can access it, this Boston Globe story gives some background on what’s involved. I’m thinking of voting NO on this one.

Question 1: The Fair Share Amendment

It won’t surprise anybody that I’m voting YES on this and urging you to do so too. It probably won’t surprise anybody either that the wealthy who are outraged by the very idea of paying their fair share are working overtime to scare the non-wealthy into voting against it.

Here’s a summary from the Fair Share website of what the amendment — which indeed amends the state constitution — will do:

Question 1 would create a 4% tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million and constitutionally dedicate the funds raised to transportation and public education. This will allow Massachusetts to improve our roads, bridges, schools, and transportation by guaranteeing in the text of the Massachusetts constitution that every dollar raised by the surtax will go to only public education and transportation. And if you don’t make more than $1 million a year, you won’t pay anything more.

The Fair Share Amendment will generate $2 billion a year, every year, that is constitutionally dedicated for quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.

The anti–Fair Share scaremongers maintain that this would come down particularly hard on small-business owners and people who sell their homes. They conveniently ignore the fact that the Fair Share Amendment applies only to personal income over $1 million, not to what a small business grosses in a year. If one’s personal income from one’s “small business” is over $1 million a year, the chances are that the business is not exactly small.

And when a home sells for over a million dollars, the seller’s actual income is much less than that. First you subtract the original purchase price from the selling price, then you deduct the cost of major improvements made, and if you’ve sold your primary residence, you can also deduct up to $500K from your taxes. In 2021, fewer than 900 homes out of the approximately 100,000 sold in the commonwealth generated enough of a gain to be affected by the Fair Share Amendment.

The Fair Share Amendment’s website includes valuable information on what the amendment will do and why it’s needed. It also offers solid rebuttals to the disinformation put out by opponents. The FAQs are particularly helpful, and so is the page on real estate sales.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good” kicks in here too, because though the amendment specifies that the revenue thus raised be spent on transportation and education, the specifics are left up to the legislature, and right here in Massachusetts we have what may be the least accountable and least transparent legislature in the country. What this means is that our work doesn’t stop when the amendment is added to the state constitution. It means we have to stay on it.

Question 4: Eligibility for Driver’s Licenses

This one isn’t covered in the secretary of state’s brochure because it wasn’t certified till early September. Here’s the basic info about it. It’s an attempt by the usual suspects, i.e., Republicans, to overturn a law passed by the state legislature in May 2022 that would allow undocumented individuals to obtain driver’s licenses providing they fulfill all the other requirements, like passing the road test and giving proof of identity and birth date. It would not allow these individuals to register to vote or obtain a REAL ID.

The measure is popular with law enforcement, and the 17 states with similar laws have seen a decrease in the number of uninsured drivers and hit-and-run accidents. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a no-brainer and I’m voting YES.

Sample Ballot

Here’s the sample Early / Absentee Ballot for my town of West Tisbury. The first five offices and the ballot questions will appear on all ballots statewide. (Some areas will have additional ballot questions.) Most Vineyarders will see ballots that look a lot like this one, except the down-island towns will have different candidates for the Regional School Committee.


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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