Voters set to decide governor’s race, county commission, and MVC posts

Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard voters will join voters across the state to decide a spirited race for governor and four contentious ballot questions on Tuesday, November 4.

Locally, Island voters will fill seven seats on the Dukes County Commission, and nine seats on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). They will also take action on a non-binding ballot question which asks if our state senator should be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would expand the radiological plume exposure emergency planning zone around the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth to include the Cape and Islands.

Up-Island voters will be asked to choose from among six candidates for five seats on the up-Island school committee.

A Chilmark ballot question asks voters to exempt borrowing for road repairs from the provisions of Proposition 2.5.

West Tisbury voters will be asked to elect a new town moderator to fill the position held for 23 years by Pat Gregory, who was murdered while vacationing in California last May. Dan Waters, development director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and a longtime resident of West Tisbury, is the only candidate on the ballot.

Polls are open in all Massachusetts cities and towns from 7 am to 8 pm. In the lead-up to next week’s election, Island political activists have been out in force in support of their candidates. Television viewers have been subjected to a barrage of campaign advertising, much of it fueled by Political Action Committees that have poured millions of dollars into critical races. On Tuesday, it is the voter’s turn to speak.

The governor’s race between Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee, and former healthcare executive Charlie Baker on the Republican ticket, has attracted much of the attention in the November election.

Ms. Coakley ( of Medford, lists  jobs, education, health care, and civil rights among her primary issues, and she says she is dedicated to the principles of opportunity, fairness, and equality.

Mr. Baker ( of Swampscott, is a former Secretary of Administration and Finance under Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, and former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. His campaign is focused on issues that include economic growth, schools, and safer, stronger communities.

Stephen J. Kerrigan (D) ( faces Karyn E. Polito (R) ( in a race for lieutenant governor that has attracted little attention.

First-term incumbent U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D) ( faces a challenge from Republican Brian J. Herr ®

Incumbent Congressman William Keating (D) ( of Bourne is running for re-election from the Massachusetts ninth district, which includes Martha’s Vineyard. He faces a challenge from John C. Chapman (R) ( of Chatham.

Maura Healey (D) of Charlestown ( faces Republican John B. Miller (R) ( in the race to replace Ms. Coakley as attorney general. Ms. Healy is a prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office and a former professional basketball player. Mr. Miller, of Winchester, is a civil engineer and attorney.

Longtime Secretary of State William Galvin (D) ( faces a challenge from David D’arcangelo (R) (

In the race for state treasurer, Deborah B. Goldberg (D) of Brookline ( will square off against Michael Heffernan (R) of Wellesley ( Ms. Goldberg is a former Brookline selectman and former executive at Stop & Shop, which her family founded. Mr. Heffernan is a technology entrepreneur and former banking executive.

Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (D) faces a challenge from Patricia S. Saint Aubin (R) (

In local elections, Daniel A. Wolf (D) of Harwich ( faces Ronald R. Beaty (R) of West Barnstable ( in the race for state senate in the Cape and Islands district. Mr. Wolf is the founder and CEO of the regional airline Cape Air. Mr. Beaty identifies himself as a tea party candidate.

State representative Timothy R. Madden (D) of Nantucket ( is running for reelection unopposed.

District attorney for the Cape and Islands Michael D. O’Keefe (R) of Sandwich ( seeks reelection to another term. Mr. O’Keefe was first elected in 2002.

He is opposed by Richard G. Barry (D) of Cotuit (, a former Barnstable town councilman, and former assistant district attorney.

Dukes County Commission

The County of Dukes County was established in 1683, as part of the province of New York. It was annexed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

During the Republican administration of Gov. William F. Weld, county governments across the state were eliminated by state lawmakers who argued that county government, with its historic roots in Colonial times, was old-fashioned and had outlived its usefulness. Despite the abolition of most county government across the state, Dukes County, the Island’s only form of regional government, managed to survive under a specially written and adopted county charter.

The seven elected, unpaid members of the Dukes County Commission exercise general legislative powers. They preside over a county government led by a paid county manager who has full control over the administration of county services.

Martina Thornton is the current county manager.

Although included in the county budget, the Sheriff’s Department, the Registry of Deeds, both headed by elected officials, and the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, statutorily under the control of the county-appointed airport commission, have independent sources of revenue.

The only County department or services over which the county manager exercises direct authority is veteran’s services.

Most of the money for county services directly under the control of the county manager comes from individual town assessments, which are based on real estate valuation. Taxpayers are often unaware of the amount because it does not appear as a line item on annual town meeting warrants.

The county general fund budget for fiscal year 2015 that began on July 1 is $1.702,199 million. Assessments to the six Island towns, plus Gosnold, total $491,739. Edgartown shoulders the largest part of the burden, $179,386, or 36 percent.

The county commissioners’ most direct influence over Island affairs rest with their authority to appoint Martha’s Vineyard’s representative on the Steamship Authority board and the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, which by statute is solely responsible for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, the state’s only county-owned airport and business park.

Under the county charter, there cannot be more than two county commissioners elected from each town, but there is no requirement that each town have a county commissioner. County commissioners are elected for two-year terms.

The county commissioners

All seven seats are up for grabs on the Dukes County Commission.

The election ballot lists the names of four candidates, all incumbents, leaving three slots open to write-in candidates. Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, an incumbent who failed to get on the ballot, and Gretchen Tucker Underwood, a newcomer to Island politics have announced write-in campaigns.

Ms. Underwood, who moved to the Island from Wellesley, said she wants to be engaged in the community and is interested in issues that affect seniors.

The name of longtime county commissioner Lenny Jason Jr., Edgartown and Chilmark building inspector, does not appear on the ballot. Mr. Jason, who was most recently re-elected as a write-in with 30 votes, told The Times he is not running an active write-in campaign. Mr. Jason declined to confirm whether he would serve, if elected as a write-in.

Two-term county commissioner Tom Hallahan is not seeking reelection.

The following names appear on the ballot.

John S. Alley of West Tisbury, a former selectman, has long been active in local government. He served on the airport commission for more than 30 years until the county commission declined to reappoint him earlier this year.

Leon Brathwaite II of West Tisbury is seeking his second term on the county commission. He is the former chairman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination under Governor Michael Dukakis.

Tristan Israel of Tisbury was first elected to the county commission in 2007. He owns a landscape business and is a Tisbury selectmen.

David Holway of Edgartown was appointed to fill the term of Melinda Loberg who resigned in August. He is a Democratic party activist, and president of the Quincy based National Association of Government Employees union.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission

On Tuesday, voters must make the biennial selection of the nine elected members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC).

Nine candidates appear on the official ballot, which instructs voters to vote for not more than nine candidates. All but two of the nine currently serves on the commission.

Seeking reelection on the November 4th ballot are Clarence “Trip” Barnes of Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Joshua Goldstein of Tisbury, Douglas Sederholm of West Tisbury, and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury. Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs and James Vercruysse of Aquinnah are MVC appointees seeking to become elected members of the commission. Abraham Seiman of Oak Bluffs, a retired health care administrator who serves on numerous town boards, and Robert Doyle of Chilmark, a retired substance abuse counselor involved in public health advocacy and addiction counseling are the only new candidates.

How it works

Established in 1974, the MVC is a regional land use planning and regulatory agency with broad powers to oversee and permit developments of regional impact (DRI) and develop regional regulations for areas approved as districts of critical planning concern (DCPC).

The MVC includes 21 members, either elected by Island voters or appointed by elected officials, on or off Island.

Nine commissioners are elected by Vineyard voters in elections held every two years. Six are appointed on an annual basis by the selectmen of each town. The Dukes County Commission appoints one MVC member on an annual basis. The governor, or a member of the governor’s cabinet, appoints five commissioners, but only one of those may vote.

The nine elected MVC members are chosen in an at-large, Island-wide vote. Residents of one town may vote for candidates from other towns, but at least one commissioner, and no more than two, must be elected from each town.

For example, if the candidates with the three highest vote totals are from the same town, only two will be elected to the MVC. If a candidate with the lowest vote total overall were the only candidate from that town, he or she would be elected.

The MVC exerts a strong influence on the Island economy and infrastructure. It does this by shaping and permitting, or denying, projects referred to the commission as developments of regional impact (DRIs), and in the creation of districts of critical planning concern (DCPCs), which towns can adopt to provide an overlay of regulatory control on top of local zoning bylaws.

Ballot referenda

There are four referendum questions on the ballot, all initiated by citizen petition.

Question 1 would eliminate a provision of state law which ties the state gas tax to the Consumer Price Index, which, in effect, automatically adjusts the gas tax for inflation.

A “yes” vote would eliminate the provision, a “no” vote would leave the law unchanged.

Question 2 would extend the bottle deposit law to cover all liquid drinks except milk, alcohol, baby formula, and medicines. Currently, water, iced tea, and sports drinks are exempt from the bottle deposit.

A “yes” vote would expand the bottle law to cover more beverage containers, a “no” vote would leave the law as it is.

Question 3 would essentially repeal the 2011 law allowing for casino gambling in Massachusetts. Under the new law, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has already awarded licenses for a slot machine facility in Plainfield, a casino in Springfield, and a casino in Everett. The law allows for one more casino in southeastern Mass and opens the way for a tribal casino.

A “yes” vote would prohibit the commission from awarding more casino licenses, and prevent casinos awarded licenses from opening. A “no” vote would make no change in the gambling law, allow casino construction to go forward, and new licenses to be awarded.

Question 4 would entitle people who work for Massachusetts companies with 11 or more employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Employees of smaller companies could earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time. Question 4 would allow an employee to use earned sick time for an illness or injury to themselves or close family members; to attend routine medical appointments for themselves or close family members; or to address the effects of domestic violence against themselves or a dependent child.

Workers could earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

A “yes” vote would establish earned sick time for employees. A “no” vote would leave current state law covering sick time unchanged.

Town Voting Locations

Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

Aquinnah Old Town Hall; Chilmark Community Center; West Tisbury Public Safety Building; Tisbury Public Safety Facility; Oak Bluffs Public Library meeting room; Edgartown Town Hall meeting room.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included incorrect county assessments. Those figures have been updated. Also, John Alley is not the town’s postmaster. He is the postmaster for Alley’s General Store. And Rob Doyle, candidate for MVC, is a retired substance abuse counselor. Mr. Jason was previously elected with 30 write-in votes, not 10 votes as originally reported.