I AM NOT one for hyperbole, but this is the most contentious election year that I have seen. Republicans versus Democrats. Ideologues on both sides trying to outdo each other in their efforts to gain some electoral advantage. Republicans opposed to ideas that they had previously proposed simply because Democrats are now in favor of them. And vice versa.
But every now and then, something happens that renews my optimism in our political system. And something like that has just happened in the Norfolk County sheriff’s race.
A couple of years ago Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti resigned as sheriff to accept a position as interim president of Quincy College. Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Jerry McDermott, a former Boston city councilor and former state director of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts office, as sheriff for the balance of Bellotti’s term. McDermott is now running, as a Republican, for election to that post for a full-term; and two of his former rivals on the Democratic side have endorsed him over Patrick McDermott, the Democrat who defeated them in the primary.
I have often commented on people putting aside party loyalty and voting for the best person for the job. Voters should view themselves as members of a hiring committee. What in a person’s resume would lead a reasonable person to conclude that they would do a good job in that position? That appears to be what has happened here.
In endorsing the Republican McDermott, former Democratic candidate Jim Coughlin put party aside. In a press release, Connolly said “I believe the position of sheriff should not be a political one, and it should be held by someone that understands law enforcement and corrections, as well as the many challenges of substance abuse disorders and mental health. I have great respect for Jerry McDermott and all the work he has done as sheriff.”
Similarly, former Democratic candidate Bill Phelan, in a press release, stated that over “these past few months Jerry and I had respectful, substantive conversations about criminal justice reform…. Jerry’s platform is consistent with my own vision for the jail, especially his focus on compassionate care, racial equity, improving treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, and ending the unequal treatment of incarcerated women.”
Yes, it is laudable to support your party. But, in the end, each voter needs to answer one question: Which candidate can fulfill the responsibilities of the position they are seeking and cast your vote accordingly. And our political system and our democracy will be the better for it.
Paul DeBole is an assistant professor of political science at Lasell College in Newton.