Nantucketer Tim Madden will replace Turkington
Election day on Martha's Vineyard saw big turnouts in all six towns and big votes for President-elect Barack Obama and, in a hard-fought race closer to home, for Nantucketer Tim Madden, who was elected to replace Rep. Eric Turkington, who chose not to seek reelection to his Statehouse seat.
Assessing the voter turnout, Aquinnah town clerk Carolyn Feltz said that Tuesday's voting eclipsed that of any other election in her memory. Voters and town officials in other towns seconded that view.
Mr. Madden relied on rock-solid political support on his home Island of Nantucket to defeat Dan Larkosh, Jacob Ferreira, and Melissa Freitag of Falmouth. Mr. Larkosh and Mr. Ferreira are both Vineyarders.
Photo by Susan Safford
Mr. Turkington of Falmouth, who had strong Island support, stepped down after 20 years to run for Barnstable County register of probate, a race he lost.
In another hotly contested local race, incumbent Lenny Jason Jr. of Chilmark, incumbent John Alley of West Tisbury, and write-in candidate Thomas Hallahan of Oak Bluffs won seats on the Dukes County Commission.
Island voters sent eight incumbents and a newcomer to the Martha's Vineyard Commission. The big loser was Jim Athearn of Edgartown, an incumbent and top vote-getter in the past, who failed to file his nomination papers on time and was forced to mount a write-in campaign. Despite a strong showing, his final tally fell short.
Voters approved a change in the county charter that will change the term of commissioners from four years to two, and elect all commissioners concurrently, rather than the current practice of four-year, staggered terms.
Islanders voted to elect Barack Obama president, and to reelect John Kerry to the United States Senate, in landslide proportions.
Knabel uncorked champagne well before network news programs projected the Democratic candidate would win the White House.
Photo by Steve Myrick
Running as an independent candidate, Mr. Madden parlayed an overwhelming advantage among Nantucket voters, and relatively strong support on Martha's Vineyard, into a seat in the state House of Representatives. He won 9,530 votes overall on Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and in the six precincts of West Falmouth that make up the district, or 37 percent of all votes cast. Mr. Madden won 4,968 votes in Nantucket, representing 82-percent of the ballots cast there. He carried only one Vineyard town, Chilmark. But buoyed by the endorsement of several local political figures, he captured 3,034, or 29 percent of the overall Vineyard vote.
"The turnout on Nantucket and the strong support was unbelievable," said Mr. Madden. "As for the Vineyard, I couldn't be happier. In four short weeks, my supporters got the word out. I've always felt that I've had strong relations with the Vineyard," said the former Nantucket selectman. "We share so many concerns. I look forward to the challenge of proving myself to the district, and the people of Martha's Vineyard."
Mr. Madden will succeed his former boss in the state legislature. For the past ten years, he has worked for representative Turkington as Nantucket's legislative liaison. He enjoyed the quiet support of Mr. Turkington, who stopped short of a public endorsement.
"I would have loved for him to have done that, but he was not going there, and I understood that," said Mr. Madden.
Photo by Susan Safford
Mr. Turkington did mention Mr. Madden by name in a series of automated phone calls to Vineyard residents in the days leading up to the election. "That was basically thanking Martha's Vineyard, and he thanked me in that call," said Mr. Madden.
Also campaigning vigorously for Mr. Madden was Chilmark resident Tim Lasker, who ran third in the Democratic primary, but carried Vineyard towns by a substantial margin.
Attorney Dan Larkosh, who won the Democratic primary in September, ran second in the state representative race, with 7,507 votes, or 29 percent of the ballots cast. He carried his home Island easily, with 37 percent of the vote. In a repeat of his successful primary strategy, he ran very strong in the Falmouth precincts. He was the choice of 34 percent of those voters.
Mr. Larkosh also won Gosnold. The folks on Cuttyhunk, part of Dukes County, cast 25 votes for Mr. Larkosh, 15 for Mr. Ferreira, 7 for Ms. Freitag, and 17 for Mr. Madden.
The mood was somber among Mr. Larkosh and his supporters, who gathered at the Portuguese American Club on election night. As results from each town were posted, it became more clear Mr. Madden's lead was insurmountable.
Mr. Larkosh called Mr. Madden yesterday morning to offer his congratulations. "He was a formidable opponent," said Mr. Larkosh. Looking back, Mr. Larkosh said he thought his political strategy was sound, but just fell a bit short.
"We needed to win Falmouth and the Vineyard, to be able to defeat Mr. Madden's strong support in Nantucket," said Mr. Larkosh. "We did win the Vineyard and we did win Falmouth, but the margins weren't big enough."
Mr. Larkosh won endorsements from much of the state's Democratic party establishment, from Governor Deval Patrick on down. He also won support from unions representing nurses, Steamship Authority crew members, carpenters, and others. But he was disappointed that a number of local political figures publically supported Mr. Madden.
"I think endorsements do matter, in races like this," said Mr. Larkosh. "What puzzles me the most about that is that none of those people ever talked to me first, they never gave me a chance. The normal thing is that people would talk to you before jumping on and saying let's all vote for this guy from Nantucket. Certainly if Turkington had endorsed me after the primary, that would have made the outcome different." said Mr. Larkosh.
Falmouth resident Melissa Freitag, a history and government instructor at Cape Cod Community College, was a distant third in the race, with 3,398 votes. She ran second in the Falmouth precincts with 2,645 votes.
Despite running fourth in the race with 3,008 votes, Vineyard Haven resident and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Jacob Ferreira was upbeat on the morning after the election. "It was an amazing process," he said. "I'm very thankful for everybody's wonderful support. Congratulations to Tim, he ran a very effective and efficient campaign. I was able to establish a friendship with him during this campaign. I look forward to working with him." He also offered congratulations to Mr. Larkosh and Ms. Freitag.
Mr. Ferreira said he didn't know what the future holds, except that he will remain dedicated to public service, including education issues. In the near future, his public service will entail catching up on duty with the Coast Guard reserves.
Mr. Jason was the top vote getter in the race to fill three open seats on the Dukes County Commission, with 5,917 votes county-wide. Mr. Jason has served on the commission since 1995. Also reelected was Mr. Alley, a veteran of 25 years on the commission, with 5,688 votes. He won 684 more votes than Ms. Linda Sibley, who tallied 5,004 votes.
Mr. Alley and Ms. Sibley cannot both serve on the commission because they are both from West Tisbury and the county charter stipulates that no more than two seats can be held by residents of the same town. Commission chairman Les Leland, who was not up for reelection and remains on the commission, is also from West Tisbury. Under the charter, Ms. Sibley will be declared "not elected." She was also a candidate for reelection to the Martha's Vineyard Commission, where she won with the fourth highest vote total in a race for nine seats.
"I'm actually really quite happy," said Ms. Sibley. "the fact that I did not get elected to the county commission is a minor disappointment, but after 15 minutes of feeling slightly offended, I moved on to relief. I hope the strong showing of Lenny and John as incumbents reflects that there is actually some core of support for the county, in spite of all the flack we've been through."
Ms. Sibley said when she took out nomination papers, Mr. Alley and Mr. Jason had indicated they might not seek reelection. "I'm not sure I would have run at all if I had known in advance that they would both run," said Ms. Sibley. "I'm very happy to be back on the Martha's Vineyard Commission; that's my true love."
The residency requirements of the county charter left the door open for Mr. Hallahan of Oak Bluffs, who ran a well-organized write-in campaign. He won 642 votes to earn a seat.
"I was glad, obviously, with the results," said Mr. Hallahan. "My goal was to get more than 500 votes Island-wide. Pretty good for a first timer." Mr. Hallahan is a healthcare public policy consultant and educator. Dan Flynn of Oak Bluffs got 180 write-in votes.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a change to two-year concurrent terms for commissioners, the only formal change in the county charter recommended by the Dukes County Charter Study Commission after 21 months of work. "Yes" votes prevailed with 56 percent of the ballots cast.
Martha's Vineyard Commission
Andrew Woodruff of West Tisbury won the most votes among the ten people seeking nine seats on the Martha's Vineyard Commission. He was reelected, followed by incumbents Christina Brown of Edgartown, Chris Murphy of Chilmark, Ms. Sibley, Doug Sederholm of Chilmark, and Katherine Newman of Aquinnah. Challenger Holly Stephenson of Tisbury ranked sixth in voting for the at-large seats, followed by incumbents Peter Cabana of Tisbury and John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs.
Mr. Athearn was tenth as a write-in candidate with 2,194 votes, well short of Mr. Breckenridge's total of 3,821.
Barack Obama was elected president, and his Island supporters reveled late into the night as the results of the historic election piled up in favor of the Democratic candidate.
About 30 supporters gathered at the home of West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel to watch the returns. Among them was Paddy Moore, who coordinated the Martha's Vineyard for Obama committee.
"This was an unbelievable effort," said Ms. Moore. With polls showing Mr. Obama far ahead in Massachusetts, Island supporters focused on battleground states. They traveled to campaign in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio in the final months of the campaign. The main focus, however was on New Hampshire. "We had cars going up every weekend for the past four months," said Ms. Moore. She said supporters were motivated by "a hope that it was possible to reclaim the America we believe in."