Retired Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake will run against incumbent Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden for the Democratic nomination for sheriff. The showdown will be decided in the state primary on Sept. 6.
Debra O’Malley, spokeswoman for Secretary of State William Galvin, confirmed the island’s worst-kept secret on Monday: that Blake is indeed a candidate for the position of sheriff. “He has in fact already deposited his papers with us. He will be on the Democratic ballot for sheriff, assuming there are no objections or withdrawals filed,” O’Malley wrote in an email about Blake.
Blake announced in February that he would retire after 35 years in law enforcement as of June 30. On Monday, Blake told The Times that the sheriff’s job was something he considered running for six years ago, but now was not the right time. Now that his term as police chief is coming to an end, he saw an opportunity.
“The seed was planted then,” Blake said of Sheriff Michael McCormack’s departure in 2016. “It was not the right time then, it was not the time of my life and my career. I didn’t understand what it took to race. It’s something that I’ve always considered the next step in my career.
The town of Oak Bluffs gave Blake the position of director of public safety when the town was looking for a new fire chief. “I was able to see another side – the fire and EMS side – and what happened in the management of those departments,” he said.
Ogden said he heard Blake was considering running, but didn’t hear his paperwork had been filed. “I just hope his motivation is selfless and not selfish,” said Ogden, elected in November 2016. “I wish him all the luck in the world. It’s not easy running for sheriff. the challenge and I think my record speaks for itself over the past six years, especially during the pandemic.
Ogden understands that his office has been criticized for the regional communications system, particularly in Edgartown, but he has defended his department’s efforts to strengthen the island’s communications system. He said he got $7 million from the state, which made his department the envy of others in the state.
When he took over, the system was failing. There were problems with towers and generators, he said.
“I hope the island will remember that I was under no obligation to develop or maintain the system,” Ogden said. “No one was doing anything to accomplish a reliable public safety system. I am proud of what we have done. It’s miraculous.
Blake stopped short of specifically criticizing Ogden, but said every time you introduce a new system there will be some hiccups. “Part of my goal would be to be mindful of the end users of the system and to keep that communication open,” Blake said. “I have been an end user for 35 years.”
Blake enters the race from a department that has recently been the subject of controversy after a department-issued firearm goes missing and suddenly reappears at the police station. An independent investigation led to the resignation of long-serving police sergeant. Michael Marchandas well as a recommendation from the investigator that the department improve its record keeping for firearms.
Blake said he doesn’t think this will become a campaign issue, and if it has, he thinks he’s handled the situation in the best possible way. “There are members of the department who did not follow the procedure,” he said. “Thank goodness the gun itself was never lost or stolen.”
As department head, it was his job to make sure things didn’t fall through the cracks and, if they did, to deal with them. “The optics weren’t great,” Blake said. “As head of the department, those responsible were held accountable. I certainly haven’t investigated. I thought we did the right thing by bringing in someone from outside.
Blake has yet to file documents with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. “I’m waiting for the selection committee to select my successor,” Blake said, noting that he’s careful not to break any rules.
Ogden, according to the state website, has $5,754 in his campaign account.