When Democratic state Senator Dan Wolf announced he wouldn’t run again, he set off a scramble in the sprawling Cape and Islands district. The district, which includes Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and most of Cape Cod, carries the blessing and the curse of seasonal, upscale tourism – and all the booms and busts and low-wage service jobs that entails. Known for its stunning but fragile coastal ecosytem, the Cape is also home to a year-round population that struggles with a lack of affordable housing, soaring rates of opioid addiction, and crumbling infrastructure. Fortunately, voters have a strong and knowledgeable candidate running to succeed Wolf. The Globe endorses Democrat Julian Cyr, in the expectation that he will be part of a fresh generation of leadership on Beacon Hill.
Cyr, a Truro native, faces Republican Anthony Schiavi, a retired Air Force brigadier general. Schiavi, who stresses his experience as a former town manager and police commissioner for the town of Ashland, is an indefatigable campaigner and skilled debater who prevailed in a tough primary — beating Barnstable town councilor Jim Crocker by a relatively slim margin. Cyr and Schiavi are in agreement on many of the issues facing their district: both candidates have noted, for example, that the Cape risks losing an entire generation to opioid addiction, and both support expanding treatment options.
Cyr and Schiavi differ markedly in their approach to revenue. Schiavi hews generally to a no-new-taxes policy, and would align with the Baker administration on budget issues. Cyr supports the so-called Fair Share Amendment, a proposal to raise taxes on incomes over $1 million.
To move forward, the tax measure, which started as an initiative petition, needs 50 votes in two successive legislatures meeting jointly in constitutional convention. The Legislature approved the amendment in May, so the proposed amendment will need a second vote next year. If it clears the 50 vote threshold, it will go on the ballot in 2018. In a district that encompasses millionaires’ enclaves on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, the new revenue generated by the amendment could be a lifeline. Otherwise, Cape communities are unlikely to be able to fund much-needed but expensive new sewer systems to handle a worsening wastewater problem.
Perhaps in keeping with the anti-immigrant sentiment dominating the GOP debate nationally, Cyr has faced criticism for his support of sanctuary cities, which offer protection for illegal immigrants. But that’s a red herring in this race. There are currently no sanctuary cities on the Cape, and, besides, local municipalities have the ultimate say – it’s an issue of local control.
Cyr grew up working in his parents’ restaurant in Truro and is part of a sturdy cohort of next-generation entrepreneurs and policy wonks who have decided to put down roots in their hometown. He has worked across party lines on Beacon Hill as chair of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. He has also garnered a diverse array of endorsements, including one from US Senator Elizabeth Warren. Although Schiavi has made admirable sacrifices to serve his country, Cyr holds greater potential and deserves a vote on November 8.