When you go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8, you’ll be asked to cast ballots on a lot of races, from governor to congressman to county commissioners.
It could be easy to overlook one of the most important races on that ballot, but we hope you won’t.
For the first time in 20 years, there is a real choice for Cape and Islands district attorney. That office, since its inception in 1971, has been occupied by either Michael O’Keefe or Phil Rollins, O’Keefe’s mentor.
Why should the DA’s race matter to you?
Because Martha’s Vineyard has been largely ignored during O’Keefe’s tenure. And in 2018, when Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard, whom O’Keefe assigned to the Vineyard, was sanctioned by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers for prosecutorial misconduct, O’Keefe didn’t apologize to Islanders for the misconduct of his office. Instead, he tried to blame Island defense attorneys and others at Edgartown District Court for the problems his employee created.
It was a disgraceful moment for O’Keefe and his office.
But enough about the past. We want to move forward, and the best way to do that is with Democratic candidate Rob Galibois. Galibois is an accomplished defense attorney who cut his teeth as a prosecutor. We know him as a man of integrity and accountability, and know that he will bring those attributes to the district attorney’s office.
Just look at these answers to The Times’ questions about Jan. 6 from Galibois and his opponent Republican Dan Higgins, who most recently worked for O’Keefe, and has been endorsed by his former boss.
While Galibois told us he will await the outcome of the grand jury investigation, Higgins went right to the Republican playbook on the insurrection led by former Republican President Donald Trump. “I don’t know enough about what federal prosecutors are doing to make a judgment about the Jan. 6th prosecutions. Having said that, it seems that nothing was done by the federal prosecutors for the arson, looting, and rioting all though the summer of 2020. That does not send the public a very good message.”
If we were a judge in a courtroom, we’d be asking the witness to answer the question.
Here is another example of the contrast between these two candidates. The Provincetown Independent recently reported on a debate between Galibois and Higgins.
According to that coverage, both men were asked whether they would change O’Keefe’s practice of stonewalling journalists.
“I will ensure that we answer the phone when the press calls, and that phone will be on 24/7,” Higgins was quoted as saying.
“We will be readily accessible to the press,” Galibois said. “That is part of what we talked about earlier, in regard to accountability and transparency.”
But the proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding. When the Provincetown Independent reporter tested those answers, Galibois answered his phone. Higgins? The newspaper reported he “did not return repeated calls.”
We had a similar experience with Higgins. When our reporter reached out to the three Republican candidates for district attorney during the Republican primary, Higgins said he would return his responses to our questions several times, but never did — apparently not caring enough to let Vineyard voters in the primary know his positions on the issues.
Galibois has been a frequent visitor to the Vineyard since he announced his candidacy in January. He has visited 18 times to campaign outside Cronig’s and meet voters at town meetings all across the Island. He’s met with police chiefs and private citizens.
Galibois said his presence will continue to be felt should he be elected as DA — something that didn’t happen when O’Keefe was in the office. We have yet to see Higgins on the Island, though his Facebook page shows he has visited at least once.
Galibois has a strong vision for the office. He plans to hire a community engagement officer. “That person won’t have an office,” Galibois said. “That person will have a car, a cell phone, and ferry tickets.”
He also intends to create community coalitions, with monthly meetings, to stay out in front of key issues, and each of the DA’s employees will be asked to do four hours of community service per month to keep them engaged.
Galibois has vowed to make his first assistant a woman — something that’s never happened on the Cape and Islands. He also plans to introduce a recovery court diversion program on the Island, as well as mental health sessions and veterans sessions that show an appreciation that not all alleged criminal defendants are created equally when it comes to ensuring public safety.
“You won’t see me a lot in the DA’s office,” Galibois told The Times. “There’s no reason for me to be there … I’m going to be out in the community.”
We don’t do these types of endorsements often, but there is a clear choice in this election, and we don’t want to see the Cape and Islands miss out on this opportunity. Vote for Rob Galibois for DA on Tuesday, Nov. 8.