On the local scene, it was above all the three Massachusetts ballot questions that we were watching closely. It was tense for awhile: in the earliest returns, Question 3, which would have reduced the sales tax from 6.25 to 3 percent (note: the previous rate had been 5) held a slim 4-point lead. As I noted in a recent post, the Select Board, like the leadership of many other locales—and indeed, all the gubernatorial candidates—opposed the measure because it would wreak fiscal havoc on local governments. Question 1 would have repealed the recent extension of the sales tax to alcoholic beverages. Most political figures opposed on the same grounds as Question 3, though perhaps less vociferously or with less passion, because the tax was quite new and had a much smaller fiscal impact (revenues of 97 million, used mainly for treatment of substance abuse, vs. $ 2.5 billion for general revenue). At the end of the evening, Question 1 passed by a relatively narrow margin. By the time the around 10 percent of the returns had come in, the vote tallies for Questions 2 (repeal of affordable housing legislation) and 3 settled into the pattern that would hold throughout the evening: a roughly 60-40 vote against.
All in all, these were results we can live with. Now at least the Select Board won't have to scrap or radically revise the guiding budgetary principles on which we have been working so hard these past few weeks. The town can continue to operate within difficult but essentially sustainable conditions, allowing us to focus on what is truly important, such as the new Development Modification Bylaw (more detail another time), which enables us to control growth, support affordable and moderate-income housing and smart growth, and protect natural and historical resources and agriculture.
Elsewhere in the state, there were few surprises for most of us.
To be sure, one of my conservative friends did remark, with dismay and surprise, that success eluded Sean Bielat over on the coast, despite his having invested more energy and money in the campaign than any of his counterparts in recent memory: the irrepressibly liberal and feisty Rep. Barney Frank easily won re-election. Liberal Democrats triumphed across the Bay State. Governor Deval Patrick was among them. Turned out my Green Party friends were right about two things, one a fact, the other, a prediction: (1) The Democratic Party dominates the state government and the state legislature. (2) They had assured me that Jill Stein would not be a "spoiler" in the gubernatorial race. Indeed: she garnered a whopping 1 percent of the vote.
Here in the western part of the state, our State Representative Ellen Story handily won her race. It was ironic: On this day in 1915, Massachusetts voters rejected a referendum that would have extended suffrage to women.
Nationally, of course the Republicans won big. Something for everyone, then. I'll drink to that (even though that action will henceforth yield less direct revenue for the state's coffers; just another altruistic act on our part).
Now that this grueling election is over, it's time to get ready for the next one. By common but unofficial agreement, the 2012 presidential race starts tomorrow.
Ben Storrow, "Olver, Story notch landslide victories, look ahead," Amherst Bulletin, 5 Nov.