Two political newcomers vie for state senate seat

Democrat Julian Cyr and Republican Anthony Schiavi hope to fill the seat now held by Cape and Islands Senator Dan Wolf.

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Anthony Schiavi and Julian Cyr. –Courtesy of the candidates

Two men, both political newcomers, will square off to represent the Cape and Islands in the state senate. Both men are political newcomers. The Times asked each candidate to describe his background and tell Island readers why he deserves their votes.

Julian Cyr: I have experience in public policy, health advocacy, and politics. Recently I was director of policy and regulatory affairs for environmental health at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Prior to that post, I was deputy director for government affairs at DPH, where I was responsible for a $600 million budget and tracked over 1,300 bills relevant to the agency. In 2013 and 2014, I chaired the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. Under Governor Deval Patrick, I worked with members of the state senate as deputy director for government affairs at the Department of Public Health. I led the regional field organization for President Obama’s successful re-election campaign. I have also worked as a harm-reduction counselor at the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. I interned at the Obama White House at the Council on Environmental Quality, and also worked for the Clinton Global Initiative. I have a B.A. in public policy and community health from NYU, and I’m a Cape Cod native and resident of Truro.

Tony Schiavi: I’m a retired brigadier general with a distinguished 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force, and I have a long history of fighting for our families.

I’m a decorated fighter pilot and veteran of Operation Desert Storm, an experienced town manager and police commissioner.

As wing commander at Joint Base Cape Cod, I helped lead the effort to protect more than 1,000 jobs, preserving $330 million in local economic benefits for our community. During my tenure as town manager in Ashland, we were able to achieve a triple-A bond rating within two years, and as Ashland police commissioner, I led the reorganization of a police department in dire need of change and reform.

Why are you the best candidate to represent Islander interests on Beacon Hill?

Mr. Cyr: As a Truro native, I grew up in my family’s seasonal restaurant, like so many of the small businesses on Martha’s Vineyard. As a local, I know how our seasonal economy works. At DPH, I stood up to Pilgrim Nuclear Station to successfully get the utility to pay for potassium iodide pills for Island towns, and led the state’s response to Vibrio, a pathogen that repeatedly closed oyster beds in Katama Bay. I have spent extensive time in the legislature, working with Tim Madden and Dan Wolf on legislative proposals important to the Island that were successfully enacted into law. I currently serve on the board of directors of Health Imperatives, a nonprofit health and human services agency that provides services to thousands of families and individuals on Martha’s Vineyard.

Living on Martha’s Vineyard is growing harder, driven by the cost of housing. As Senator, I will work to: 1) Fund programs to develop rental housing; 2) Establish tax-free saving accounts for first-time homeowners; 3) Pass special legislation for local solutions to housing needs (e.g., tiny housing and accessory dwelling units). Last year the Cape had the highest rate of overdose deaths per capita in the state, followed closely by Dukes County. We have a severe shortage of services, with no inpatient beds available on the Islands. I resolve to: 1) Deliver more treatment beds and expand long-term treatment; 2) Train more crisis-intervention coordinators in police departments. We must ensure that our natural environment — the driver of our economy — remains pristine for generations to come. I will: 1) Push for the immediate closure and swift decommissioning of Pilgrim; 2) Retool state standards to protect our sole-source aquifer from pesticides, and mitigate nitrogen and fertilizers in our waterways; 3) Pay for critical infrastructure needs without relying solely on property tax increases, such as an expanded room-occupancy tax to fund wastewater investments; 4) Support renewable energy generation.

Mr. Schiavi: To solve the many critical issues facing the Cape and Islands today, the next state senator must be able to work successfully across party lines. Over the course of 30 years in public service, I have built a portfolio of significant, successful, and proven accomplishments in this regard. Here’s what others are saying:

Noted lifelong Democratic attorney Bruce Bierhans said in his endorsement of me, “The state senate is not a place for on-the-job training … I know that with Tony Schiavi in the state senate, Democrats will have a seat at the table.”

The Boston Globe, in an earlier endorsement, said I have the ability to work across party lines and will “thrive in that role.”

WGBH in a commentary observed, “Tony Schiavi has one of the best résumés in any race this year.”

And Governor Charlie Baker said of my candidacy, “I enthusiastically endorse his candidacy, and look forward to working closely with him.”

I am honored and encouraged by such endorsements, and committed to working on behalf of the interests of all residents of the Cape and Islands.

Among my top priorities: Fighting the opiate epidemic and crime in the region; job creation; promoting affordable housing, and addressing the homelessness issue; and protecting the environment, supporting quality education, and better care for seniors and veterans.

To achieve these goals, partisan politics just won’t cut it. Accomplishments are measured, as they should be, in proven results.