Two candidates are facing off in the race for Cape and Islands District Attorney, the first time in two decades the election has not featured the incumbent.

Republican District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, who has served in the role since January of 2003, is not running for re-election. Competing for his seat are Republican candidate Daniel Higgins, who defeated two challengers in a party primary, and Democrat Robert Galibois, who ran unopposed in his party primary.

The race has seen aggressive campaigning and large donations from supporters on both sides. According to state election filing records, Mr. Higgins has raised more than $181,000 and Mr. Galibois has raised more than $109,000.

But Mr. Galibois has significantly outraised Mr. Higgins on Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Galibois has raised $11,685 from donors on Island, while Mr. Higgins has raised $110.

The Gazette asked both candidates to provide written answers of not more than 75 words to 10 different questions, detailing their personal and professional background, interest in the district attorney position, and specific policy positions on issues including bail and the office’s presence on Martha’s Vineyard. Their responses are included below.

1) Please provide a brief biography that includes your age, town of residence, family and a description of your professional background.

Mr. Galibois: I am 52 years old and live in Barnstable. My wife is Dr. Nikki Galibois (PhD) and we have two sons: Max is a junior at Boston College and Cam is a freshman at Duke University. I have practiced law for 27 years. I was prosecutor for the Cape and Islands for 5 ½ years where I tried major felony cases in the Superior Court, and I have handled thousands of cases as a defense attorney, including 15 homicides.

Mr. Higgins: I live in West Barnstable with my wife, Elizabeth, and our son, Charlie. For the past 13 years, I have been an Assistant District Attorney for the Cape & Islands. I have prosecuted every type of case in District and Superior courts, including murder. I have supervised a team of 10 assistant district attorneys across five district courts. Prior to becoming a prosecutor, I graduated from Boston College and Suffolk University Law School.

2) Why are you running for District Attorney, and what are your qualifications for the position?

Mr. Galibois: Public safety is paramount. Over the course of 27 years working as both a prosecutor and defense attorney across the Cape and Islands as well as the entire Commonwealth, I have gained experiences across the entire spectrum of criminal cases. My diverse experiences revealed different solutions to common problems within our communities. Moreover, my lifelong commitment to serve the members of the community through both civic engagement and volunteer efforts reveals my passion to serve.

Mr. Higgins: I believe the District Attorney’s Office should be led by an experienced professional. I have devoted my entire legal career to the people of the Cape & Islands as a prosecutor. I want to ensure prosecutors for the Cape & Islands continue to be given the ability to use sound discretion to treat people fairly as individuals, not policies.

3) How would your leadership of the office differ from that of your predecessor?

Mr. Galibois: To lead an office that represents the community you must be engaged with the community. The present administration continues to be sorely lacking in this regard. I will hire a fulltime community engagement officer whose exclusive responsibility will be to be in our communities daily to keep a pulse on the happenings, create an Island community coalition that meets monthly with our office, and each of our employees will commit to four hours of monthly community service.

Mr. Higgins: I intend to maintain the professionalism of this office. District Attorneys Phil Rollins and Michael O’Keefe served our communities well. I would bring youth, fresh ideas, and my 13 years of prosecuting experience to this position. I would like to bring the HUB model to the Cape & Islands to focus our substance abuse treatment resources. I also want to increase our programming for juveniles. We can always increase our efforts in crime prevention.

4) How does your party affiliation influence your approach to the DA’s office?

Mr. Galibois: Politics should not play a role in prosecution — period. The first priority for a DA is public safety. The District Attorney has a responsibility to work effectively with law enforcement officials to promote public safety. The District Attorney must also be transparent about how the office performs its functions and remain accountable at all times as our mission is achieved through public service.

Mr. Higgins: It does not. This is a professional job. The job is enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth. Political affiliation can have no influence in the decisions made by the District Attorney.

5) What steps would you take to improve the DA office’s presence on Martha’s Vineyard? Would you open an office here, or hire an ADA specifically based here?

Mr. Galibois: My administration would open an office outside the courthouse where we would be able to meet privately with victims of crime and provide a professional workspace for our employees. I would hire a victim / witness assistant who is a Martha’s Vineyard resident. Should the District Court increase operations to a full week then we would also hire a local prosecutor from Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Higgins: I intend to seek funding to secure office space near the Edgartown courthouse for our prosecutors and advocates. The current space afforded to us in the courthouse is insufficient. Currently, two prosecutors from Barnstable are assigned to District and Superior Courts on the Island. I believe this helps prevent conflicts inherent with prosecuting cases on an island. However, I will actively seek to hire an Island-based professional for an administrative and victim witness advocate position.

6) How would you improve the DA office’s relationship with Island law enforcement?

Mr. Galibois: By working with them. This is not a snarky response. All the feedback I have received after meeting with representatives from all six police departments is consistent: the present DA’s office does not maintain an appropriate presence on MV to effectively carry out its responsibilities on all the cases.

Mr. Higgins: As part of my campaign, I traveled to meet with the Island chiefs of police and sought their input on this. Based on that conversation, I intend to open an office there, maintain regular meetings with the department chiefs, and invite island law enforcement to all trainings that we provide on the Cape. I have also met with local attorneys and court personnel to see how we can maintain good relationships on the Island.

7) Are there particular types of cases that you would make a high priority to pursue?

Mr. Galibois: Cases involving mental health and substance use disorder have been steadily increasing throughout all the Commonwealth. Steps need to be taken to try to bring as many resources as possible to address this glaring fact. Additionally, we will relentlessly target those who drug traffick in heroin and fentanyl.

Mr. Higgins: Crimes of violence and fentanyl trafficking require our attention. If a case is indicted in Superior Court, it means it requires special attention and heightened penalties beyond those of District Court. Our senior ADAs are assigned to Superior Court for this reason. We have several specialty units for cases that require extra attention, including child sexual assaults, elder abuse and civil rights violations.

8) Briefly describe your philosophy on bail.

Mr. Galibois: Requesting cash bail is appropriate when a defendant is charged with a major felony, has a history of defaulting or the circumstances of the case involves public safety. For cases involving non-violent misdemeanor offenses, court-ordered conditions of release (i.e. abstinence, gps device) are more effective than cash bail as such conditions require a defendant to conform their behavior to acceptable norms.

Mr. Higgins: The bail statute permits the prosecutor to request bail when appropriate. The purpose of cash bail is to ensure a person returns for their court dates, including trial. It is essential to the victims of violent crime and our justice system that an accused person appears for trial. I believe this determination should be made by the facts known about a case, including a person’s past history of defaults, and not by a policy.

9) How would your office communicate, inform and engage with the community on Martha’s Vineyard, including the newspaper?

Mr. Galibois: As mentioned above, I would create a community coalition that is comprised of local elected officials (i.e. select board and school committee), law enforcement members and regular citizens and we will hold monthly meetings to maintain the connection to the people we serve. As for the press, we would hold in-person conferences as well as always being accessible by telephone. Ongoing dialogue between the office and press is necessary for transparency and, ultimately, accountability.

Mr. Higgins: My office will reach out to the community to address the specific needs of the Island. It has already begun to happen as part of the campaigning process. I intend to appear in person on-Island to maintain relationships with law enforcement and forge new relationships in the community. I intend to maintain a media email, a media phone and a website. I will explore the use of social media to deliver information quickly.

10) When you aren’t at the Dukes County Courthouse, what is your favorite thing to do on Martha’s Vineyard?

Mr. Galibois: Meet with folks. Campaigning has been a complete joy. Being able to talk issues with folks outside of a market, in a kitchen, or at restaurant enriches everyone. We, as a community, must engage as often as possible with one another to enhance our daily life experiences.

Mr. Higgins: Round the Island sailing race and lunch at Lookout Tavern.