With the election for the vacant Plymouth and Barnstable District state Senate seat set to take place Tuesday, May 19, a special election cycle marked by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic will finally come to a head.
After Tuesday, either Republican James McMahon III, a lawyer from Bourne, or Democrat Susan L. Moran, a corporate lawyer from Falmouth, will fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Viriato “Vinny” deMacedo, who announced in October that he would leave his seat for a post at Bridgewater State University.
The campaigns of both candidates were altered by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented them from meeting face-to-face with voters and extended the campaign by six weeks, when the state Senate postponed the election from March 31 to May 19 in an effort curb the spread of the virus.
Mr. McMahon said that, in the face of the pandemic, he has not stopped reaching out to voters to hear their concerns, only now he does it through the telephone, email and social media as opposed to going door-to-door.
“When something is thrown at you in life, you have to come up with a quick solution,” he said.
Mr. McMahon said that during his phone calls with voters he has been stressing his 10-point economic recovery plan, which calls for a set of tax cuts, the furloughing of state employees for two weeks, and giving businesses an opportunity to submit social distancing plans that would allow them to reopen.
In addition, Mr. McMahon stressed the importance of having a date by which businesses could reopen, saying that the area needs a “common-sense approach to dealing with the issues of the pandemic and reopening the economy, as well.”
If elected, Mr. McMahon said, he would be the “loudest advocate” for reopening Cape Cod by Memorial Day weekend.
“The summer season starts Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “We cannot be closed for business. Our economy thrives on tourists. Our restaurants have to be open. We can do it with reasonable precautions.”
Mr. McMahon said that if essential businesses can be open with social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, then nonessential businesses can do the same.
He said that without a specific date by which Cape Cod businesses can reopen, tourists will make plans to head to other destinations, such as Rhode Island, where a phased reopening plan began last Saturday, May 9.
“If you own a business, it is not nonessential to you. You survived based on the paycheck from that business,” he said.
Without lines of tourists heading to Cape Cod for the summer, Mr. McMahon said, “The next line will be in December, when people are lining up for bankruptcy.”
Ms. Moran also shifted from door knocking to phone calling when Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. first issued a stay-at-home advisory in mid-March. She said she has used the phone calls to “check in” on the region’s voters.
“The door knocking is impossible because of social distancing, so we have heavy phone contact with folks, really with the first order of business being checking in and asking how folks are and how they are handling social distancing,” she said.
Ms. Moran credited her campaign team, which she described as “committed, experienced and creative,” for a smooth transition to campaigning during a pandemic.
Ms. Moran said that during her phone calls with voters she has heard concerns about ensuring that everyone is wearing a mask while shopping or in close proximity.
As a Falmouth selectman, she said, these concerns partly informed her vote on the Falmouth Board of Selectmen to require face masks while shopping in Falmouth.
In addition to public safety, she said, many voters are concerned about the economy. She pointed to a connection between following public health guidelines and a timely reopening of businesses.
“I hope going forward that folks will continue to be as patient and committed to social distancing as possible,” she said. “Because it’s going to keep our numbers down in terms of infections and deaths, and allow us to open the economy when it’s time, in as safe a way as possible.”
Ms. Moran, who also sits on the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, said her local and regional government work gives her a “direct nexus” to address both economic and public health concerns as a state senator.
“At this point in time, the district needs someone who can hit the ground running, who is already working on the issues and has been working across the aisle with legislators that are already doing the work,” she said. “This district in particular needs someone to fight for our fair share.”
The Plymouth and Barnstable District encompasses the towns of Bourne, Falmouth and Sandwich in Barnstable County and the towns of Kingston, Pembroke and Plymouth in Plymouth County.