These primaries do matter
Man, this primary election sure looks inconsequential, doesn’t it?
It’s on a Thursday — not a Tuesday — in this hectic week after Labor Day. Top-of-the-ticket dwellers have few, or no, challengers. Even more than usual, the day will favor incumbents and those with familiar names. Turnout promises to be abysmal.
And so once again we’ll have an exercise in halfhearted democracy in which a sliver of the electorate slides some folks into office who have no business being there.
If I ran the world, voting would be mandatory and elections would be held on Saturdays. But I don’t, so I’m urging you — begging you — to vote. Because even though the contests on this anemic ballot don’t seem super sexy, some of them kind of are.
In Essex County, there’s a crowded field vying to be sheriff. Snoozefest, right? Wrong. In the course of his or her career, a sheriff’s wisdom or the want thereof affects hundreds of thousands of lives. The 1,800 or so inmates in Essex County lockups at any one time all go back to the community at some point. How they’re treated during their short stays in jail — whether they get counseling and addiction care and job training, whether they’re safe inside and insulated from the wrong influences — makes a huge difference to how they fare outside.
There are a few candidates in the district who talk like they get that. Wenham attorney Ed O’Reilly seems the most enlightened and creative about the need for treating inmates, rather than warehousing them, though I’m not a huge fan of his bare-knuckles campaign style. Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger and Middleton Jail superintendent Michael Marks seem to understand the crisis that is sending legions of young men to lockups, too. Voters will have to decide if a longtime police chief will be tempted to take a more punitive approach, and whether Marks can run his department impartially after accepting campaign donations from employees. But decide they should.
And, hey, Suffolk County — you, too, have a reason to get yourself to the polls. Low turnout threatens to return former Boston city councilor Steve Murphy to the public payroll to the tune of $124,000 a year — and for a job, register of deeds, that appears entirely devoid of power and responsibility. If voters here stay home, Murphy — who did not deign to participate in any candidate forums — will waltz into the job, besting six other Democrats with less recognizable names, some of whom, like Katie Forde and Paul Nutting Jr., actually want to make something of the job, such as it is.
And if that doesn’t do it for you, there are a bunch of other races around the state that give voters a chance to elevate promising newcomers who would better reflect them — especially if they care about progressive causes. For example, if you live in Lawrence and you’re happy to be represented by a man who prides himself on his opposition to gay rights and abortion rights, you can sit the primary out and see throwback Marcos Devers win the Democratic nomination Thursday. But if you take a more 21st-century view of things, head on out to the polls and cast your vote for Juana Matias. The former social worker and attorney has represented unaccompanied children in immigration court and is now a construction company executive.
Likewise, if you live south of Boston in Milton, Randolph, or other communities represented by soon-to-be-former Senator Brian Joyce, you can sit on your hands and help Representative Walter Timilty — another retro lawmaker with one of the most conservative records on Beacon Hill, and another guy who hasn’t felt the need to debate his opponent — skate into the seat. Or, if you prefer somebody more enlightened — and willing to actually work for your support — go vote for Nora Harrington , a psychologist who wants to expand people’s rights.
Timilty, Murphy, Devers, and others are hoping you don’t budge, of course.
Disappoint them. Please?