Commuter rail question, sheriff's job on the line: 6 things to know about the election

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NEW BEDFORD — The general election is right around the corner, with several major issues on the ballot that could affect residents’ future in the near future and for generations to come.

As a presidential midterm election, voters on Tuesday, Nov. 8, will be asked mainly to decide races at the state and county levels. Ballot questions will be before them about issues ranging from public transportation to a millionaire tax and more.

The deadlines have already passed for voters to register to vote or request a mail ballot. Early voting is ongoing; anyone voting by mail must return their ballots in time for them to be counted by Nov. 8. In-person voting takes place on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with polling places based on precinct.

Here are six things New Bedford-area voters need to know before the election.

Whatever happens, Mass. will have a new governor

With Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito choosing not to seek a third term, the state's top executive seat is up for grabs. On the Democratic ticket, Attorney General Maura Healey and Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll are in the running. Former state Reps. Geoff Diehl and Leah Allen are representing the Republican Party. Also on the ballot are Libertarians Kevin Reed and Peter Everett.

New Bedford support:Healey and Driscoll endorsed by Mayor Mitchell at New Bedford waterfront

A recent University of Massachusetts Amherst poll shows Healey with a significant lead over Diehl, 61% to 33%.Baker, a Republican, will leave office the country’s most popular governor — an April poll by Morning Consult showed that 74% of Massachusetts voters approve of his job performance.

Who's running for state Legislature?

Several legislators at the state level face challenges.

The race for state representative in the 10th Bristol District is between longtime Democratic incumbent William Straus, 66, of Mattapoisett, and Republican newcomer to state elective office Jeffrey Swift, 61, also of Mattapoisett.Eighth Bristol District state Rep. Paul Schmid, a Democrat, is facing Republican Evan Gendreau.

State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, Democratic incumbent in the First Bristol and Plymouth District, is facing a challenge from Republican Russell Protentis.

Straus, who has been the chair of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation for 10 years, was first elected in 1993. Straus has said he's proud of his work in the transportation area where he's been able to focus state resources on SouthCoast needs, including South Coast Rail. Swift, who has a chiropractic practice, has said his "core principles are very conservative in nature. If there's a strong upwelling of conservative ideology, then I should do very well."

Schmid, who has been a state representative for 12 years, has worked on legislation to revitalize Fall River’s Flint neighborhood and increase educational spending; Gendreau is chairman of the Westport Republican Committee and worked on Diehl’s campaign for Senate against Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

Rodrigues has been in state politics since 1996, and has cited improvements under his tenure in public safety, affordable housing and economic development; Protentis has made headlines recently for being charged with open and gross lewdness, stemming from allegations he exposed his genitalia at a YMCA pool.

Hodgson faces a challenge for sheriff's position

One of the most hotly contested races on this ballot is for Bristol County sheriff.

Longtime Republican Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is facing a challenge from Democratic Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux.Hodgson has held the post of sheriff since 1997; the last time he faced a challenge for the job was 2010, against former Democratic state Rep. John Quinn of Dartmouth.

'Stark difference': How Hodgson and Heroux view the role of Bristol County Sheriff

The sheriff has a sizeable campaign war chest of over $210,000 cash on hand, according to most recent Office of Campaign and Political Finance reports. He was first appointed the position and has won four consecutive six-year terms. As a political figure, Hodgson has courted controversy, attracting criticism for an offer in 2017 to send prisoners from Bristol County to the southern U.S. border with Mexico to help build a border wall for then-President Donald Trump. He has also been investigated for violating immigrant detainees’ civil rights and has faced criticism over the high suicide rate at his correctional facilities. Hodgson has defended his record by noting perfect scores on American Corrections Association inspections.

Heroux said he has experience in corrections, working in the Philadelphia prison system and for the Massachusetts Department of Correction as director of research and planning as a gubernatorial appointee under the Patrick Administration. According to OCPF, Heroux has just over $45,000 of free cash in his campaign. Heroux has said he wants to establish a "national model of evidence-producing corrections" if elected on Nov. 8. The job's top priority is to run the county jail, he has said, and can be summed up by: "Care, custody, control and rehabilitation."

What are the ballot questions?

Several questions are on the ballot. Question 1 would amend the state constitution to add a 4% tax on personal incomes above $1 million, with revenues being used for public education and transportation infrastructure. Sometimes called the Fair Share Amendment, the measure has support from 59% of voters, according to a recent UMass Amherst/WCVB poll.

Question 2 would ask the state to regulate dental insurance rates, while Question 3 would increase the number of liquor licenses one retailer could be allowed to own or control statewide. According to the poll, Question 2 is likely to pass with 68% of those polled favoring it, while voters are split on Question 3 — 39% yes, 38% no, with 23% of voters undecided.

Question 4 is a referendum on a law that allows access to driver’s licenses for all residents regardless of legal citizenship status, with a yes vote leaving the law in place and a no vote repealing it. The recent poll has a narrow majority of voters, 51%, keeping the law in place.

New Bedford has commuter rail on the line

A citywide ballot will ask voters to approve New Bedford becoming an MBTA district city: "Shall this City be added to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority?"

Designation as an MBTA district city by voter referendum is required before rail service can begin at the two new platform stations being developed in New Bedford — the North New Bedford (Church Street) and New Bedford (Whale’s Tooth parking lot) platforms.

South Coast Rail is restoring commuter rail service between Boston and this region to link New Bedford, Fall River and Taunton to Boston. The train from New Bedford to Boston last ran in 1958. The trains are supposed to start running to the new New Bedford stations by the end of 2023.

The city is creating special zoning districts around the two sites. The overlay districts will be designed to encourage mixed-uses — apartments and condos on the residential side, and offices, artist workshops, medical offices, and light-advanced manufacturing on the commercial side.

MBTA attorney Kevin Scanlon has said that if voters reject MBTA membership on November’s ballot, the issue could be placed again on future ballots.

Brown takes on Keating to represent 9th District

Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. William R. "Bill" Keating is seeking a seventh term vs. Republican Jesse Brown.Keating has said his focus on the campaign trail has been on the rising cost of health care, particularly prescription drugs, and the consequences of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Keating was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1977, before he began serving in the state Senate in 1985. He was also elected and served as Norfolk County District Attorney from 1999 until he was elected to Congress in 2010.

Brown has said the economy will be his focus in reaching out to voters. He said people across the nation are experiencing higher prices for gas, energy, food and more, which is exacerbated by "reckless spending" in Congress.Brown, a Marine Corps veteran and co-founder of Heidrea Communications, has said fiscally conservative people are needed in Washington to oppose this practice.

The 9th Congressional District is composed of 46 municipalities in an area that extends from Norwell to Cohasset, and includes all of Cape Cod and the islands. Under the new congressional map, the district lost Fall River to the 4th Congressional District but retained New Bedford.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Commuter rail, sheriff job, governor at stake in MA midterm election