A three-way race between attorneys Melissa Alden, John “Jack” Carey and Daniel Higgins is on in the Republican primary for Cape and Islands district attorney. One Democrat, Robert Galibois, is running unopposed for his party nomination in the primary on Sept. 6.

The four candidates are vying for the seat now held by Michael O’Keefe, who is not running for office after nearly 20 years as district attorney. In recent phone interviews with the Gazette, candidates spoke on their qualifications and the most prominent issues they see facing the Vineyard.

Melissa Alden

Melissa Alden is a former Yarmouth police officer and current family law attorney based in Barnstable. She is running as a Republican in next month’s primary.

She said she believes it’s time for a change in leadership in the district attorney’s office, noting that Mr. O’Keefe worked under former district attorney Phillip Rollins.

“I think it’s time for a change,” Ms. Alden said. “I’d like to see a new proactive district attorney’s office.”

Ms. Alden said she plans to be hard on criminals — especially those committing sexual offenses — and supportive of victims in the district.

“There are district courts that are off-Cape that offer a mental health [court] session as well as a veterans session,” she said.

Ms. Alden started her career in law enforcement, first working in administration in for the Yarmouth police department, before going to the police academy and eventually becoming an officer. She  became a police officer in 2007 and passed the bar exam in 2009. After leaving the police force in 2017, she began working in family law full time.

She said her experience in the community as an officer and attorney qualify her to become district attorney.

“But I also have experience on the other end of raising my children in this area,” she said.

On the Vineyard, Ms. Alden said she would like to see a better line of communication with the office, particularly by employing an Islander with law enforcement or prosecution experience.

“I think that’s important,” she said. “I think it’s important to have those contacts and people in place … so we can be more proactive.”

John Carey

Republican candidate John “Jack” Carey is a retired Navy captain and recipient of the bronze star. He said engagement and communication will be crucial to the office if he’s elected.

“What our office will be focused on is engaging with the community regarding the … issues on the Cape,” he said.

He outlined a philosophy that intends to prosecute drug dealers, while engaging with the community to make them aware of the drugs present on the Cape.

“It all starts with education,” he said.

Mr. Carey attended the Massachusetts Maritime Academy before deploying in the Navy. He moved back to the Cape in 1992, and began working in the district attorney’s office in 2000. He has been practicing law for 23 years.

Mr. Carey was deployed three more times before retiring from the Navy in 2020, twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. He said his experience overseas is something unique to his candidacy.

“The one word that singles me out is leadership,” he said. “I’ve gained leadership you can’t learn in law school.”

Mr. Carey said he will work to improve communication between Martha’s Vineyard and the district attorney’s office if he’s elected.

“There seems to be a breakdown in communication,” he said.

Robert Galibois

The lone Democrat in the Sept. 6 primary, Robert Galibois has practiced criminal law for his entire 27-year career as an attorney. He said he wants to see change in the district attorney’s office.

He said the succession of former district attorney Phillip Rollins to current district attorney Michael O’Keefe has led to a disconnect between the office and its constituents.

“It’s as if there’s been one administration for 48 years,” he said.

Mr. Galibois is a recent resident of Barnstable. He first moved to the Cape in 1996, but moved away to enroll his children in school in Boston, he said. His practice of 27 years has always been on the Cape and Islands, he said.

He first began working as a volunteer prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, before moving on to private practice.

Mr. Galibois said if he’s elected he will hire a full time community engagement liaison, form community coalitions and require all employees of the office to engage in community service.

He added that he plans to add specialty mental health and veterans courts to the district.

“The goal is to reduce recidivism by addressing the core issue,” he said. “I’m not reinventing the wheel here.”

On the Vineyard, Mr. Galibois promised to install a resident of Martha’s Vineyard in the Island’s district attorney office.

“I also promise to be a presence on Martha’s Vineyard,” he said.

Daniel Higgins

Assistant district attorney Daniel Higgins has worked in the Cape and Islands district attorney’s office full time for more than a decade. The Republican candidate said he’s worked in the district attorney’s office since he graduated from law school.

Mr. Higgins, who lives in Barnstable and has lived on the Cape full time for 13 years, cited his experience in the district attorney’s office as a benefit for his campaign.

“I think the people of the Cape and Islands deserve an experienced professional at the helm,” he said.

He added that he sees a major part of the job as doing the right thing, a piece of wisdom he said was given to him by district attorney Michael O’Keefe when he started out in the office.

“I believe the right thing is different in every case,” Mr. Higgins said.

He said community outreach would be a large part of his office’s work if he is elected, including a plan to look at a county-led approach to substance abuse issues.

On the Vineyard, Mr. Higgins said he believes a better line of communication can be formed with the district attorney’s office.

“I would make sure we have a presence on the Island and a constant connection with law enforcement,” he said.