Parsing the election results in Belmont

Yes we can! Tuesday, November 4, 2008, was a wonderful and historic day in the life of our nation, and Belmont’s voters turned out in force yesterday to be a part of it. So how did we come down on the great issues of the day?
Yes we can!

Yes we can!

Election data posted on the Town’s Web site suggest that the town’s voters are well within the mainstream of our dark blue state, with Belmont coming down on the winning side of every race and question on the ballot — and far more centrist (if not left leaning) than the editorial positions staked out by our town paper, the Belmont Citizen Herald. Here are some highlights:
  • Despite being the home town of Republican candidate and former Governor Mitt Romney, Belmont lined up solidly behind Democrat Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, who won the vote of 68% of the town’s voters, compared with 28% for John McCain and Sarah Palin.
  • Senator John Kerry did almost as well — winning 67% of the town’s vote, compared with 27% for his Republican challenger, Jeff Beatty, who faced almost insurmountable odds in a year that was so favorable to the Democratic ticket.
  • State Senator Steven Tolman and Rep. Will Brownsberger, both running unopposed, both won handily against a smattering of write-in candidates.
  • Turnout was very high, with 13,711 voters turning out to the polls.
  • Belmont voted with the state majority on every ballot question. Despite a strong endorsement by our town paper of Question 1, proposing a roll back of the State’s income tax, voters in town soundly rejected it: 70% to 26% in favor. That follows a heated debate across the state and in the comments of this blog, among other things, over the measure, which supporters said was designed to end government waste and pension abuse. That said, the chorus of voices urging voters to reject the initiative was huge, comprising both unions and the business community, all of the state’s major papers and the entire political establishment of the state. In fact, our own Belmont Citizen Herald appears to be one of the few papers to editorialize in favor of Question 1– and perhaps the only paper in the state to do so. I’ve checked and I can’t find another, though I’m ready to be corrected.
  • Don’t break out the Tams and dreads, but Belmont — like Massachusetts in general — seems ready to turn a page on the War on Drugs, voting 65% to 32% to de-criminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana, imposing a schedule of civil fines instead.
legalize it? not quite -- but at least "don't criminalize it!"

legalize it? no. but don't criminalize it!

  • Dog racing fared no better than that dog of a tax proposal, Question 1: voting 61% to 35% to eliminate wagering on dog racing — a vote that will likely deal a fatal blow to Wonderland Greyhound Park.
  • Question 4, entreating lawmakers to take action to cap greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the development of alternative energy sources in state also passed solidly, with 70% of the vote compared with 15% against.

What do these results mean for the town as a whole? Do they suggest some kind of shift in public opinion in town that will bear on the tough budget debates and spending projects to come? I doubt it. Getting behind a once in a generation candidacy like Barack Obama’s was a no brainer. But voters in town will still have to look deep into their souls (and their pocket books) in the months and years to come and make a commitment to Belmont’s future that, quite simply put, will be painful but necessary. As with the President elect, the list of challenges facing the town is long and daunting: roads in disrepair, an elementary school that absolutely must be replaced, a high school in desperate need of repairs and a library and police station that have outlived their usefulness. We can’t do it all at once but, as with the problems facing our country, the coming months will require Belmont’s elected officials to exhibit leadership and smarts in charting a course through these tough times and coming up with a plan that will allow the town and its residents to expect a future that is as bright as its past.