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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Vote Like Housing Matters

I’m working on an election roundup post and pep talk, but a story in the Cape Cod Times caught my eye yesterday and pissed me off enough that I’m devoting a post to it.

Travvy jumps for Dylan and Julian, fall 2016.

I hadn’t paid all that much attention to the guy running against State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). Travvy and I did a little campaigning for Julian in 2016, and he’s done a stellar job in his freshman term so I’m campaigning for him again — more zealously this time because our equally stellar state representative, Dylan Fernandes, is running unopposed. Dylan isn’t letting the grass grow under his feet, however: he’s working hard for the coordinated Democratic campaigns, including Julian’s. But I digress . . .

So yesterday I read in the Cape Cod Times that Senator Cyr’s opponent, whose name is John Flores and who is on the Barnstable town council, “has recently suggested — in campaign mailers and media interviews — that Cyr does not live in the district.”

WTF? Julian grew up in Truro, lives in Truro, and has lived in Truro most of his life. I was so floored that I read on.

Flores “has not offered evidence to substantiate that contention,” added the Times story. Then it quoted Flores as saying this: “I don’t know where he lives. I don’t think he owns property on Cape Cod or pays taxes here or contributes to the local economy.”

And I got it: Flores checked the property tax rolls, didn’t find Julian’s name on it, and concluded that Julian doesn’t live in the district.

Excuse me for shouting, but if you can’t come up with the screamingly obvious explanation for Julian’s not being on the property tax rolls, you know diddly about the Cape & Islands district and shouldn’t be running for office until you learn that affordable housing is one of our most pressing issues.

And while we’re at it, why didn’t you bother to check the voting lists or the town census before you concluded that Julian doesn’t live in the district?

Julian is 32. He grew up on the Cape, working in his family’s restaurant, and since then he’s worked in the less-than-lucrative public sector. Many members of his age cohort, not to mention those considerably older, have been leaving Cape Cod and both islands because they can’t find affordable housing. The lucky ones, like me, find something we can afford to rent. John Flores, what planet do you live on?

Or, as Julian put it: “John Flores is sinking lower and lower into dirty and false political attacks to distract voters from the issues that matter. This isn’t the way we do politics on the Cape. I proudly live on the Outer Cape, where I’ve spent most all of my life. My legal address is in Truro. I don’t own a home because, like many Cape Codders & Islanders, I’ve never been able to afford a down payment.”

Flores, it seems, dug himself in deeper. From the Cape Cod Times story: “By not owning property on the Cape, Cyr does not pay taxes, Flores contends, thereby not contributing to local school systems, public safety or town government.”

WTAF?? Leaving aside the obvious — that property taxes are generally reckoned in when the landlord sets the rent — Flores seems to believe that paying taxes as a property owner is the only way to contribute “to local school systems, public safety or town government.”

Maybe he’d like to go back to the early days of the Republic, when only white male property owners were allowed to vote?

For the record, sir: renters contribute by teaching in local school systems, volunteering as EMTs and staffing our health-care institutions, and supporting town government in a variety of ways. We support the local economy by spending our money here, and that includes what we spend on rent (which adds up to a lot). And don’t get me started on the hours and energy we devote to nonprofits and arts-related activities.

When I vote, I look for candidates who’ve given some evidence that they understand what the lives of regular working people are like. Julian Cyr is such a passionate and effective advocate for the Cape & Islands district in part because he knows from firsthand experience what we’re up against.

John Flores clearly hasn’t a clue, although he’s calling himself  a “fourth-generation Cape Codder” from a traditional Provincetown fishing family. However, he was also “born in Boston, raised in Dorchester and attended Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury,” according to the Cape Cod Times. “A resident of Cummaquid for much of the past decade, Flores says he has lived on Nantucket and spent time in Provincetown and West Barnstable during summers.”

In my book that makes him a “year-round summer person”: someone who lives here year-round but thinks real life happens elsewhere and doesn’t have a clue about the challenges of living on the Cape or either island. Apparently the number of such people is growing on the Cape, and many of them vote Republican.

Moral of story: Don’t take Julian’s re-election for granted, or the Blue Wave either. Early voting started this past Monday and continues through November 2. Check with your town clerk for hours. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Be a voter!

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Repairing the Bike Path

“Infrastructure” comes up in political conversations a lot these days, and with good reason: infrastructure is crucial to the smooth running of any enterprise, but it often gets short shrift when it comes time to budget money for it. Why? Well, one reason is surely that when infrastructure is in good repair, it’s invisible to all but the most perceptive eyes. Only when it starts to fall apart does it become screamingly obvious — at which time the fix is likely to be screamingly, budget-busting expensive.

Another is that our market-based economic system is notoriously shortsighted. Left to its own devices, it’ll ignore long-term consequences for environment and community as long as they’re profitable in the short term. Watching out for the long term, and minimizing the inevitable collateral damage done when all eyes are on the bottom line — this is government’s job. Unfortunately, “government,” from the local to the national level, can be as shortsighted as business, with the result that plenty of the nation’s infrastructure is in pretty bad shape.

A sign that work on the bike path was about to start in earnest. Need I say that we walked on the bike path anyway?

Recently I got to watch infrastructure maintenance in action. It was a relatively small thing: the bike path that circles the state forest had been deteriorating for years, and rumors that repair was imminent had been circulating for almost as long.

What we got instead was patches on the many, many places where underground roots were pushing through the asphalt, creating a bumpy ride for wheeled vehicles.

Finally this fall the whole thing was resurfaced. Since Travvy, my malamute sidekick, and I walk along the stretch of the bike path between Misty Meadows and the West Tisbury School at least once a day, I took pictures of the project as it progressed. Some days Trav got to woo at the backhoes, graders, dump trucks, pickups, and other vehicles involved in the project. Quite a few of the workers paused to greet him in return.

I was impressed by the amount of work, expertise, and care involved in even this relatively simple sort of infrastructure repair. Here’s a little of what Trav and I saw on our morning walks.

Among the early signs that work was about to start were mysterious marks on the asphalt, orange or pink ribbons attached to sticks with numbers written on them, and orange enclosures at irregular intervals alongside the bike path. I’m told that these were to protect endangered plants. Trav is standing next to what was by far the biggest enclosure we saw. I have no idea what endangered plants were being protected. They have to be pretty hardy to survive passings by all the people, dogs, and wildlife that frequent the area.

When backhoes and other vehicles appeared on the bike path, we knew work had started in earnest.

An early step was to dig a trench under each of the many patches on the path. These would be filled with dirt, covered with asphalt, and graded before the final repaving was done. This one bisects the planet Mercury. How, you ask, did Mercury wind up on the bike path?

In the spring of 2016, West Tisbury School fifth graders created the solar system on the bike path, with the sun just off the parking area next to Old County Road. The distances between the painted planets retained the scale of the real ones, though the planetary diameters couldn’t do likewise: each one’s diameter was the width of the path. You can see the sun and the inner planets here and the outer planets here. As the photo on the right makes clear, the crack in the pavement was there when Mercury was painted. Now it’s gone, but Mercury is too. I miss strolling the planets. I hope they’ll come back eventually.

It took several vehicles and quite a few workers to do all the patching.

Here is a completed patch. I have zero idea how many patches the entire bike path required, but on the relatively short stretch Trav and I walk regularly, the number was daunting. Now, like the planets, they’re buried under the new pavement. Plenty of what goes into building and maintaining infrastructure is invisible in the finished product.

Immediately after the new surface was laid down, my boot soles tried to stick to it. Footprints remained visible on it.

Before long, though, the asphalt dried, rain washed away the footprints, and the bike path was a pristine black ribbon winding its way through the trees around the edge of the state forest.

The last step was to lay down sand on either side of the path. On one side, the main purpose seemed to be to discourage the scrub growth from encroaching on the pavement. On the other . . . Well, that edge dropped off rather steeply; the drop was only three or four inches, but it was enough to make me slip off the path if I wasn’t watching my step. The sandy border smoothed out the drop, and for a bonus, it now reveals where deer and other critters have crossed the bike path or even run alongside it.

Here’s the drop I almost twisted my ankle on . . .

. . . and here’s a view of what it looks like now, from the parking area across from the West Tisbury School.

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Standout Saturdays

The weather for last Saturday’s “Stand Up!” standout was pretty lousy, but more than a dozen of us braved the rain and chill and stood out anyway. Plenty of passing motorists honked their support. The organizers — a bunch of individuals, including me, who sometimes refer to ourselves as “the Usual Suspects” — decided to repeat the standout every Saturday till election day: from noon to 1 p.m. at Five Corners. Join us!

This Saturday, our state rep, Dylan Fernandes, will be at Five Corners at noon to kick off a canvass for the coordinated Democratic campaigns. Dylan is running unopposed for re-election, so he’s been working hard to get other Democrats elected (Jay Gonzalez for governor!) or re-elected, like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Attorney General Maura Healey, and our state senator, Julian Cyr.

Speaking of Julian, some of the Usual Suspects have organized a district-wide postcard-writing campaign to get out the vote for Julian. If you want to help out, let me know.

Julian and Dylan are hosting a fundraiser next Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Quicks Hole Tavern in Woods Hole. It’s a mere stone’s throw (even for someone with no pitching arm) from the boat, so come on over! Sign up or make a donation at ActBlue, and hope to see you on the boat.

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Get Ready to VOTE!

Hey, if you’re on the island this Saturday, come on down to Five Corners around noon! Bring friends! Bring signs supporting the candidates and issues that matter to you!

That morning, at 9:30 a.m., Howes House, West Tisbury, the MV Dems meeting will be devoted to actions we can take in the last weeks before the desperately important midterms. Phone-banking and canvassing are on the agenda, and I’ll be talking about writing postcards to voters, both as a long-term strategy and as something we can do right now. We’ve got a postcard campaign going for our wonderful state senator, Julian Cyr, who’s got a well-funded GOP opponent. All hands on deck!

And note these dates:

  • Massachusetts voter registration deadline: Wednesday, Oct. 17
  • Early voting: Oct. 22 to Nov. 2
  • ELECTION DAY: Nov. 6, 7 a.m.–8 p.m. Be there!

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An Open Letter to Senator Susan Collins

Dear Senator Collins:

You don’t know me. I’m not even a constituent. I grew up in and have lived the last 30+ years in Massachusetts. Like many another New Englander I think of New England as home. Though these six states differ from each other, and each one is diverse in and of itself, they do have a few things in common.

When I was growing up, nearly all of my relatives were Republicans. The exception was my father, a Roosevelt-supporting Democrat. Republicans in those days generally favored small towns, small government, fiscal responsibility, and a somewhat laissez-faire approach to personal matters, best summarized by the variously attributed quote “I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.”

The GOP has undergone a sea-change since then. If any of my older relatives were alive today, I’m pretty sure most of them would have left the party for the ranks of the unenrolled. A few might even have become Democrats. I am writing to you in the hope that you might be one of those old-style Republicans, of the kind I grew up with and you probably did too.

And yes, I am writing about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. The news reports say that you are still undecided — or at least undeclared. A while back you said that you were reassured by Judge Kavanaugh’s statement that he considered Roe v. Wade “settled law.” I’m not sure there is such a thing as “settled law,” and based on his other statements and decisions I don’t think he supports a woman’s right to choose abortion. Yesterday you were reported as saying that you thought that the FBI appeared to have conducted “a very thorough investigation” of the allegations that as a young man Judge Kavanaugh had committed sexual assault. Given the speed of the investigation and the long list of potential informants who were never interviewed, I have to disagree.

However, though I do believe Christine Blasey Ford’s account of what happened in 1982 and greatly admire her courage for coming forward in 2018, I no longer think that the decision to vote for or against Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court should rest on what happened in 1982 or even on his apparently anti-choice views.

Having watched Judge Kavanaugh’s astonishing performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, I do not need an FBI investigation to tell me that this man is unfit to sit on the nation’s highest court. A man who can’t manage his own anger, who gives vent to conspiracy theories that are unsupported by any evidence, who can’t be civil to the senators asking him difficult questions — this is the kind of behavior that if done in the street, would scare the horses. It’s scaring me. It also scares me that so many congressional Republicans have managed to rationalize this behavior and find it acceptable.

Senator Collins, my mother was an alcoholic. I grew up with this kind of explosive anger. I grew up with a mother who was even-tempered and reliable when sober and a harridan when drunk. I’ve seen such Jekyll/Hyde behavior in others over the years, and heard the stories that my recovering alcoholic friends tell about their drinking days. Interestingly enough, most of my mother’s co-workers weren’t aware she was an alcoholic. In the office she was sober. Within half an hour of getting home, she was stumbling, passing-out drunk.

I know how this works, Senator, and as a result I strongly suspect that Brett Kavanaugh is an alcoholic, maybe an actively drinking alcoholic or maybe a “dry drunk”: an alcoholic who isn’t drinking but hasn’t taken any steps toward recovery. I can’t come up with any other hypothesis that explains what I’ve seen and read during this confirmation process. It explains Judge Kavanaugh’s many failures of memory, and the striking contradictions between how he recalls his own behavior and how his friends recall it. It explains his belligerence toward Senator Amy Klobuchar when she asked him about his drinking.

By focusing so narrowly on what happened in 1982, the FBI has shed no meaningful light on Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. It did not need to, for his unfitness has been on public display during this confirmation process. I see it, and virtually everyone I know who’s dealt with alcoholism up close and personal sees it. I hope that you are like those old-style Republicans I grew up with and can see it too.

Sincerely yours,

Susanna J. Sturgis
West Tisbury, Massachusetts

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September License Plate Report

Two good catches for September, one at the beginning of the month (Oklahoma) and one at the end (Montana). After scanning my updated map, I realized I had colored Montana in but not added it to the list. That’s now been fixed, but I’m too lazy to scan it again.

One afternoon toward the end of the month I was driving from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven. On a hunch I turned left into the hospital parking lot, where exotic out-of-state plates often hang out thanks in part to the travel nurses and doctors who augment the staff during the busy season. I parked, strolled around — and there it was: Montana.

The busy season is passing, but I intend to play my hunches from now to the end of the year.

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How to Make Popcorn

Sometimes one just has to have popcorn for supper — or breakfast or lunch, but for me it’s always supper.

Last night was the night, so here’s how I make popcorn.

My method does not involve prepackaged popcorn or the microwave. I’ve got nothing against that method, not least because popcorn thus produced is a staple of my Sunday night writers’ group and I eat more than my share of it.

A housemate from my D.C. days, Beverly by name, taught me how to make popcorn the old-fashioned way. Beverly could do anything, like fix things and play the mandolin. I’m still kneading bread at a little table she rescued from the alley behind our group house and stabilized with dowels between each pair of legs. She was also responsible for the A LESBIAN WAS HERE sticker still stuck on the table’s little drawer, and the I’D RATHER BE READING ADRIENNE RICH sticker on one of my old file cabinets.

But I digress.

First, assemble equipment and ingredients. Once the popcorn starts popping, you don’t want to be hunting for them.

  • pot with tight-fitting lid
  • popcorn
  • vegetable oil
  • butter
  • toppings of your choice (my perennial faves are nutritional yeast and fresh-ground pepper, but grated Parmesan is also excellent)
  • big bowl
  • knife

I use an old 2-quart Revereware saucepan. It makes just enough for one person with a dog who loves popcorn.

Pour into pot just enough oil to not quite cover the bottom. Into oil drop 3 popcorn kernels. (This is not a magic number. You can drop 2, 4, or 5 kernels into the oil, but whatever you do remember how many you put in.)

Cover pot and turn up heat. You want hot but not scorching hot. Do not for any reason leave the pot unattended. Pretty soon you will hear pop, pop, pop. One pop for each kernel you dropped into the pot. See why remembering the number is important?

Remove the lid — see the nice fluffy popped kernels? — and pour in just enough popcorn to not quite cover the bottom of the pot one kernel deep. Replace the lid.

Don’t go anywhere. I keep one hand on the handle and give the pot an occasional jiggle to keep the kernels from getting burned. Once the corn starts popping in earnest, keep jiggling the pot. Steady is good. Frantic isn’t necessary.

Pop pop pop pop pop pop . . .

Once the popping slows way down, give the pot a few jiggles to make sure all the unpopped kernels get their chance at the bottom.

Pour about 2/3 of the popped corn into the bowl and sprinkle with toppings of your choice. Pour in the rest of the popped corn, sprinkle with a little more topping, and stir gently with knife to distribute toppings.

Into the hot pot put about a tablespoon of butter and put pot back on stove. You can turn the heat way down or even off if the burner is electric: the pot alone may be hot enough to melt the butter.

Drizzle melted butter over the popcorn and mix gently with knife.

By the time I get the bowl to my chair, Trav has taken up sphinx position close to my feet. I munch some popcorn, toss him a handful, munch some more popcorn, toss him another handful, and repeat till popcorn is gone. Then he gets to lick the bowl clean.

Tools of the popcorn popper’s trade. Not in picture: knife and 2-quart pot.


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Grayroots Rule

Of course I knew fashion designer Lorraine Parish by name — didn’t I pass her stylish shop every time I drove in or out of Vineyard Haven? But Fashion and I don’t exist on the same planet, so even though Martha’s Vineyard is an island, it’s not surprising that our paths never crossed.

At the Mass. Indivisible conference, November 2017. From left: Lorraine Parish, Holly MacKenzie, me, Margaret Emerson, and Kathy Laskowski. Missing: Carla Cooper.

Until last November, when we found ourselves in the same car with three other Vineyard women, heading for the statewide Indivisible conference in Worcester. Politics is notorious for making strange bedfellows. It also makes for interesting traveling companions. In the course of two hours to and from Worcester, not to mention 45 minutes each way on the boat, you learn more about your fellow travelers than you know about people you’ve known for years.

Lorraine wrote about her personal journey to political engagement and our trip to Worcester in the Martha’s Vineyard Times: “Get Active: Local Women Find a Cure for the Political Blues.”

After that I started running into Lorraine a lot. At a postcard party for Doug Jones, then the underdog candidate for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, Lorraine announced that she was planning to go to Alabama to canvass for Jones in the run-up to the December 12 special election.

Yeah, right, I thought. True, Lorraine grew up in Alabama and had contacts there, but after a few decades on the Vineyard I’m used to hearing — and having — big ideas that come to nothing. The place has a way of squelching any bold idea that dares stick its head above ground.

But Lorraine not only did it, she wrote about it for the M.V. Times: “Flight to a Fight.” (Go ahead: follow the link and read the story. The woman can write.)

So when Lorraine started talking about the Grayroots Movement, I put my hard-won skepticism on hold and paid attention. Her idea? To catalyze “a Democrat and Independent movement dedicated to encouraging and mobilizing our older citizens in becoming politically active in the campaign process for our candidates around the country.” The plan was to, in the fall, in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections (that would be now), to go on the road in the Northeast and maybe elsewhere to mobilize “older citizens” in support of Democratic candidates in hotly contested swing districts.

Michele (left) and Lorraine selling and modeling Grayroots Ts outside Cronig’s Market, Vineyard Haven

And she’s doing it! Through the summer she and another “Silver Warrior,” Michele Ortlip, have been tending a table several days a week outside Cronig’s, selling Grayroots Ts and Ts, totes, and caps with the Lorraine-designed D-Vote logo and raising both consciousness and funds for the road trip.

Aside: The whole world knows that I have at least five times more short-sleeve T-shirts than I can wear in a single summer, but the Grayroots T has LONG sleeves so of course I bought one.

Michele models the D-Vote logo in three options: cap, T, and tote.

I love the D-Vote logo! Currently it features this year’s general election date — November 6, but you knew that already, right?? — but as Lorraine has noted, it can be customized for other elections or particular candidates. I am, however, seriously serious about NO MORE SHORT-SLEEVE T-SHIRTS.

At least for the moment . . .

If you’re on the Vineyard, you can buy Grayroots and D-Vote swag at Lorraine’s shop on State Road, Vineyard Haven, or (if you’re in the right place at the right time) from her table at Cronig’s.

If you’re somewhere else, here’s the ordering info.

If you’re in or know of a district that could use an assist from the Silver Warriors, drop Lorraine an email. Districts in the Northeast are most reachable, but Lorraine is planning to do some on-the-ground campaigning for Peter Joffrion, running for Congress in Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, so you never know.

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Primary Day at the Polls

Tuesday’s primary election didn’t eat up all of my day, but it consumed most of it — especially if you include going to see RBG, the acclaimed documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at the Vineyard Haven library at the end of the day. I’d missed at least half a dozen opportunities to see it earlier in the year, and I’m really glad I grabbed this one. The room was packed, and like all library events it was free.

At the movie I did run into one person who didn’t realize there was a primary election on — this was around 8:45 p.m., 45 minutes after the polls closed, so it was too late to do anything about it. My candidates did well, apart from Josh Zakim, who got trounced by the incumbent secretary of state.

The Public Services Building, where my town votes

I was signed up to work the 7 a.m. to noon shift at the West Tisbury polls — by the way, why are polling places invariably referred to with the plural “polls”? No one ever says stuff like “I spent two hours holding a sign at the poll.” A poll is either a survey or the top of a horse’s head between its ears.

As a newbie poll worker, I’d only worked in town elections before, the 2017 selectmen’s race and a ballot question earlier this year when the turnout barely made it into three figures. This was my first biggie.

The early hour wasn’t a problem because I am a morning person, but it did mean I had to get up at 5 so Trav and I could take our usual hour-long walk. It was pretty dark when we left the apartment, but it lightened up quickly and I’m pretty sure Trav preferred the pre-sunrise temperature to the muggy midmornings when we usually head out.

At 7 a.m. we were all settled in place: two poll workers at the check-in table by the entrance, two at the check-out table (one of whom was me, tending a looseleaf notebook listing West Tisbury voters from Larson to the end of the alphabet), constable John Powers at the ballot “box” (which looks like an elegant lectern with a horizontal slit on top to feed your ballot into), and the town clerk’s table, staffed by town clerk Tara Whiting (who’s in charge of all things electoral) and assistant Dinnie Montrowl.

Tara made a run to Fella’s up the street and came back with coffee and breakfast sandwiches for all. The coffee was excellent and the breakfast sandwiches likewise. Watermelon chunks and bananas were also provided: the morning shift was very well fed.

Shortly after the polls officially opened at 7, the constable predicted that the turnout would be 402. After 13 hours of steady, sometimes brisk traffic through the room, the final tally was well over twice that: 939. West Tisbury currently has 2,543 registered voters, so by my calculation a shade under 37% of us voted. Island-wide the figure was 33%. Not bad for a primary, especially one held on the day after Labor Day.

Signs at the end of my road for gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez and clerk of courts candidate George Davis. Both of them won!

It was pretty clearly local races driving the turnout. Lawn signs for candidates for clerk of courts (T. George Davis and Charlie Morano) and register of probate (Daphne Devries and Gail Barmakian) have been dominating the Vineyard roadscape for weeks, far outnumbering those for any of the state races.

While checking out, one voter pointed to her ballot and said she hadn’t heard of either Bob Massie or Jay Gonzalez, who were contending for the Democratic nomination for governor. The statewide races have been on my radar since the 2017 state Democratic convention, and over the summer they were a frequent topic of conversation among my politically engaged friends — this is what happens when you become a political wonk!

Voters give their names at the door, then the poll worker checks them off and notes their party affiliation, if any. Registered Democrats get the Democratic ballot, registered Republicans get the Republican ballot, and because Massachusetts is an open-primary state, unenrolled voters can take the ballot of either party. The poll worker then records D or R to indicate which ballot each unenrolled voter took.

Voters mark their ballots in the booths that line both walls in one corner, then give their names again at the check-out table, where we also marked D or R for the unenrolled voters. Contrary to the usual color-coding, Democratic ballots are red at the top and Republican ballots are blue, which means you have to pay attention. (I’m not sure what color the Libertarian ballot is. Only one candidate appeared anywhere on the Libertarian ballot, running for state auditor, and no one cast one on my shift.) After that, under the eyes and occasionally with the assistance of the constable, voters feed their ballots into the “box” and receive an “I Voted” sticker. Quite a few of these stickers wound up on the exit door.

At the end of the day, the numbers from the check-in and check-out tables must match each other and the number on the ballot box: how many people voted and how many of each party’s ballots were cast. The double-check system came in very handy at one point when one voter’s name couldn’t be found in the check-in book. The voter was surprised, but glitches happen: with the town clerk’s guidance he had just started to fill out the form that would allow him to vote when his name did appear in the check-out book. Turned out the check-in book was missing the page with his name on it. A photocopy was duly made.

Just before noon, my relief showed up, so I cast my own ballot and went home — where despite my good intentions I didn’t get much work done. At 5 p.m. I was back at the polls, outside this time, holding one sign for George Davis and another for Keith Chatinover, who was running as a write-in candidate for Dukes County Commission. This is hands-down my favorite election day story. It goes something like this:

Keith just graduated from the M.V. Public Charter School in June, but he’s already a seasoned activist. Among other things, he’s active on environmental issues with We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos, and earlier this year he organized the buses so that 80+ students and a few adults could make the trip to D.C. for March for Our Lives. He’s delayed starting his freshman year at Middlebury College till January so he can help build the blue wave for the midterms.

So late in the afternoon of September 3 — Labor Day, the day before the state primary — he decided to run as a write-in candidate for Dukes County Commission. Old political hand Tristan Israel, longtime Tisbury selectman, advised Keith to get on the phone and start calling everyone he knew. Keith had a better idea: he declared his candidacy on Facebook. Before long his announcement had been shared a few dozen times and a bunch of us were emailing and otherwise contacting our friends, who went on to contact their friends.

Writing a candidate in is more complicated than just marking the oval for someone who’s already on the ballot. There’s space for write-ins, yes, but you have to write legibly, and you have to mark the oval next to the name you’ve just written in. Write-in candidates with more lead time often produce labels with their name and address that are just the right size to fit into the space on the ballot. Keith had no time for that, but he made slips of paper with all the necessary info that voters could take into the voting booth with them.

Keith needed 25 valid votes to get himself on the November ballot. He got 308 — including about 110 from my town: more than a third of the total came from the island’s fourth largest town. Keith kept rallying the troops — in person and on social media — before the polls closed, then posted an update and acceptance speech on Facebook the next morning. No way could this have been done on the fly by telephone. In case anyone was still wondering — Social Media Matters.

Keith’s campaign sign. Since the 2016 election many of us have honed our sign-making skills at the many rallies and demos we’ve taken part in.


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