Baker, McDermott fight to retain control of sheriff’s post

Two years ago, days after she stepped down in late 2018 as chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Kirsten Hughes landed on her feet at the Norfolk County sheriff’s office.

Hughes, one of Gov. Charlie Baker’s close political allies, was given a $75,000 contract to serve as a special legal counsel, which turned into a $137,000-a-year job as a special sheriff, and ultimately led to her appointment last year by the governor as a clerk magistrate of the Stoughton District Court ($152,000 a year).

Hughes’s swift ascent via the sheriff’s office may help explain why the race for Norfolk County sheriff has been so hard fought this year. The sheriff oversees the Norfolk County Jail in Dedham and all the jobs that go with it. Republicans, who rarely get a chance at sheriff jobs, particularly in a Democratic enclave like Norfolk County, are desperate to hang on.

Democrat Michael Bellotti was the Norfolk County sheriff for 19 years until he stepped down in 2018, a third of the way through his six-year term, to head Quincy College. Baker appointed Jerry McDermott to replace him and now McDermott is running in a special election to serve out the remainder of Bellotti’s term. Another election for Norfolk County sheriff will be held in 2022.

McDermott represented Allston and Brighton on the Boston City Council for six years before moving to Westwood, where he worked a series of jobs, including state director for former US senator Scott Brown. McDermott was registered as a Democrat when he served on the Boston City Council. He unenrolled from the party in 2010, and became a Republican in 2013. In 2018, he took a job in the Baker administration as chief of staff at the state agency that oversees state buildings and by the end of the year he was Norfolk County sheriff.

With close to two years as sheriff under his belt, McDermott is now facing a challenge from another pol named McDermott. Patrick McDermott, no relation to Jerry, has been the county’s register of probate since 2003 and before that was a Quincy city councilor. From 1993 until 1995, he worked as a legislative aide to Michael Bellotti, who was a state representative at the time.

The race has received relatively little press attention, but the two candidates are waging aggressive efforts for the job. According to campaign finance records, Patrick McDermott has spent nearly $151,000 this year through the end of September, eking out a win in the Democratic primary against two opponents, and then mounting a general election challenge against Jerry McDermott.

Jerry McDermott has spent nearly $95,000 over that same time period without facing a primary challenge. During October, he received another $165,071 in direct mail support from a super PAC affiliated with Baker, with the mailings that went out highlighting McDermott’s strong ties to the governor.

“The amount of money spent in this race is a reflection of the uphill battle that Republicans face in getting elected in a heavily Democratic county,” said Andrea Cabral, who previously served as Suffolk County sheriff.

Jerry McDermott told the Patriot Ledger last year that running the jail is not a partisan job. “There’s not a Democratic way to run this place and there’s not a Republican way to run this place,” he said.

But winning the job does come down to politics, and that’s what’s will be decided with today’s election.

BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

The outcome of the national election, particularly for president and control of the Senate, could have a huge impact on Massachusetts in terms of the state budget, immigration, and health care; It could even set off a game of political musical chairs.

To crack down on social gatherings, Gov. Charlie Baker urges a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. COVID curfew and orders restaurants, casinos, and liquor stores to close by 9:30 p.m.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka vow to hold an abortion access debate during the upcoming lame duck session.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh calls an at-grade reconstruction of the I-90 Allston interchange “the right thing to do.”

COVID-19 cases spike at MCI-Norfolk, prompting concerns by prisoner advocates.

Richard Parr of the MassINC Polling Group analyzes what the early voting surge means for Election Day.

Opinion: Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, Emerson College president Lee Pelton, and Michael Curry of the NAACP examine why low voting participation by black and Latino men is a great concern.

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

ELECTIONS

Secretary of State Bill Galvin predicts election turnout will exceed 3.6 million in Massachusetts – which would be 300,000 more people than voted in the 2016 presidential election. As of Monday, 2.3 ballots had already been cast. (Eagle-Tribune)

Nate Silver writes up his final 2020 forecast, which has Joe Biden with an 89 percent chance of winning and considerably better positioned than Hillary Clinton four years ago — but he also explains why President Trump’s 10 percent chance shouldn’t be written off. (FiveThirtyEight)

The “Right to Repair” ballot question showdown has become the most expensive in state history, with nearly $43 million spent by the two sides. (Boston Globe)

Another COVID-19 casualty: election night parties. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Cape Cod Times has a list of local races to keep an eye on.

When will we know election results? The Washington Post runs it down. David Bernstein at GBH takes a look back at recent Election Days to see what times major developments unfolded.

Lawrence officials make an effort to drive up the city’s usually low voter turnout. (Boston Globe)

Meanwhile, with a third of ballots already cast, a Brockton official predicts 80 percent voter turnout. (The Enterprise)

Worcester medical director Michael Hirsch is urging voters to vote against President Trump because of how Trump handled the pandemic. The city manager says Hirsch should stick to giving medical advice, not political advice. (Telegram & Gazette)

MassLive looks at the strengths and weaknesses of polling and whether the failure of polls to predict Trump’s 2016 victory could be repeated again.

Tensions grow in Northampton between pro-Trump rally-goers and counterprotesters, as a vehicle drives through a crowd, an officer is pushed to the ground, and some demonstrators are pepper sprayed. No arrests are made and minimal injuries are reported. (MassLive)

A UMass Amherst poll finds that 80 percent of voters had their minds made up about which presidential candidate to support by 2018. (MassLive)

A Globe editorial says Justice Amy Coney Barrett should recuse herself from any presidential election issue that lands before the Supreme Court.

IMMIGRATION

A federal judge in Illinois, citing a failure to follow proper administrative procedures, blocks a bid by the Trump administration to deny green cards to immigrants receiving food stamps and other public benefits. (NPR)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

There may be an eviction tsunami coming — but it hasn’t hit yet. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Brookline educators vote to strike after the school committee votes to no longer require social distancing of six feet in schools. (MassLive)

Franklin High School goes fully remote for two weeks after an underage drinking party among students leads to COVID-19 cases.

ARTS/CULTURE

The Supreme Judicial Court rules that the Peabody Essex Museum can move its historic library collection of books and manuscripts from its Salem museum to a new collection center in Rowley, which will have climate-controlled conditions. The museum’s intent to move the collection sparked a firestorm in Salem, with critics saying the collection would become less accessible to the community. (The Salem News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Tennessee Gas pipeline company and its contractor will pay $800,000 and be required to make repairs over environmental violations while it was installing a natural gas pipeline through Otis State Forest. (MassLive)

MEDIA

A trial is underway in the Telegram & Gazette’s lawsuit against the city of Worcester over the city’s refusal to release internal affairs records of police officers who are facing civil lawsuits. (Telegram & Gazette)