PROVINCETOWN — Thirty percent of registered Provincetown voters cast ballots in the June 30 annual town election, in which incumbent select board members Robert P. Anthony and Louise Venden squared off against challenger Austin P. Knight for the two available seats on the five-person board.
Anthony, who prioritized public health and a new police station plan during his campaign, racked up 646 votes; Venden, who focused largely on long-term planning and housing issues, received 548. Knight, a former select board member who opposed the stringent Covid-19 restrictions imposed in town this year, trailed with just 330 votes.
On July 3, the Independent stationed some of its cub reporters along Commercial Street — outside Seamen’s Bank, the U.S. Post Office, and the Boatslip Resort — to conduct a thoroughly unscientific survey of Provincetown public opinion. The day’s most striking conclusion was that every town resident with a modicum of sense had fled the area for the Fourth of July.
But a close second was this: Provincetown voters cast their ballots for a variety of reasons — remarkably few of which had anything to do with platforms or politics.
“I don’t think Louise Venden is a nice person, and I don’t think she should be on the select board,” said one person outside the bank who voted for Austin Knight and Robert Anthony, and preferred to remain anonymous.
The reporters asked if there were any issues he particularly cared about. He replied, “Not really,” paused, and then embarked on a six-and-a-half-minute monologue about the rights of year-rounders.
“We get the shaft all the time,” he said. “The part-time resident taxpayer association should be renamed ‘the part-time investor taxpayer association’ because ‘resident’ implies ‘reside.’
Mary Jo Dorman could not remember the names of the candidates for whom she voted. “As long as it wasn’t Anthony,” she said, “that’s what I did.”
Dorman explained that Anthony had bought one of her favorite town bars — “the kind of place where you’d have a beer and a shot” — and ruined it, adding piña coladas to the menu and playing folk music during football games.
One problem with that: Anthony, who spent decades in law enforcement, has never owned a bar or any other similar establishment.
“I hope I didn’t sound too negative,” said Dorman.
One resident who wasn’t worried about sounding negative: Lisa Meads, who opted not to vote.
“I don’t trust any of them to do the right thing,” she said. “I have no confidence in any of them, and I think they’re all bad.”
Just one voter to whom the Independent spoke cited municipal policy as a deciding factor in his selection. Channing Wilroy, who voted for Knight and Venden, had this to say about Anthony’s platform:
“Spending tons and tons of money on the fire department and the police department … is way overpriced. And I think mandatory masks 24 hours a day, seven days a week — if you go out of your front door — is ridiculous. He was a good police chief, but I’m sorry.”
A smattering of residents — one outside the Curaleaf store, one at the AquaBar, and one mailing a letter at the post office — missed the news of the election entirely.
“Yeah,” said one who asked to remain anonymous. “I was out of town. To be honest with you, I didn’t even realize it was happening until it was over.”