Former Sandwich Selectman, Retired Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Vying To Keep Fifth Barnstable District in GOP Column This November

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[Editor’s Note:  Because of an editing error, the original version of this story incorrectly stated the former position of Steven Xiarhos. He retired as deputy police chief in Yarmouth.]

Republican voters in the Barnstable Fifth District have a question to answer this Tuesday:  who should succeed state Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich)?

Hunt, a member of the Massachusetts General Court since 2011, is not seek re-election. Two Republicans are running for the party’s nomination:  Tom Keyes, 53, of Sandwich and Steven Xiarhos, 61, of West Barnstable.

The candidates’ backgrounds are much different. Keyes has vast experience in local politics, whereas Xiarhos has never held elected office, but spent 40 years as a member of the Yarmouth Police Department, retiring as deputy chief.

Keyes served on the Sandwich Board of Selectmen from 2002 to 2008 and the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates (which functions as the legislature for county government) from 2008 to 2011. He also spent four years as the director of the Cape Cod and The Islands Selectmen and Councilor’s Association.

“It’s prepared me very well with all of the boards, committees, and elected positions,” Keyes told New Boston Post in a telephone interview over the weekend. “I’m in a position where I could get elected and hit the ground running. I think I have more experience on the issues that impact taxpayers and municipalities than most who are up on Beacon Hill.” 

Keyes says that experience would come in handy on Beacon Hill especially when it comes to working with Democrats — something he has already done.

“It’s worked out actually very well,” Keyes said. “You can see I’ve been elevated to leadership roles on all of those boards and committees. That’s from Democrats, Republicans, and unenrolled individuals. With the Selectmen and Councilor’s Association, I had to work with over 90 elected officials on Cape Cod. They voted twice to have me be president of that organization. I have no problem working with Democrats. I have a lot of Democrat and Republican friends.”

Xiarhos, who was the chief of police in Yarmouth when Sergeant Sean Gannon was shot to death in April 2018 while trying to serve an arrest warrant on a career criminal, lists public safety as his top priority, according to his campaign web site

“I am running to continue my proud legacy of public service, following 40 years of work as a police officer,” Xiarhos told Patch earlier this month. “I want to work hard to make Cape Cod a better place to live and work. I want to reform our criminal justice system to keep people safe, support our small businesses, and bring a greater sense of accountability and fiscal responsibility to Beacon Hill.”

Xiarhos could not be reached by New Boston Post this past weekend.

On the issues, both candidates tout fiscal responsibility and oppose making Route 3 into a toll road. Keyes wants to repeal the short-term rental tax, cut the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5.0 percent, and prevent Bay Staters from using their EBT cards out-of-state. Xiarhos’s platform says he opposes the proposed Transportation and Climate Initiative carbon-emission fuel fee. He also opposes the proposed income surtax on million-dollar earners.

Xiarhos put out a statement in May reiterating his opposition to increasing any taxes.

“I am strongly opposed to increasing taxes on Massachusetts residents and businesses,” Xiarhos wrote at the time. “While I acknowledge difficulties with our state’s finances due to COVID-19, the real hardship is being felt by Massachusetts residents coping with the crisis. I’ve seen that pain first hand over the past few weeks as I’ve joined with other volunteers to provide meals to needy veterans and families across Cape Cod. The hardship is real.”

Keyes said that fiscal responsibility is his strong point. He has experience in the private sector — his company, Keyes Quality Systems, provides consulting and contracting services for businesses.

When it comes to abortion, Keyes said he is pro-life.

“I’m a father of two daughters,” Keyes said. “Before becoming a father, the abortion question was kind of just on the periphery. I was raised Catholic, but once you have a baby and raise children and realize how precious it is, it really solidifies your position on life.”

Xiarhos’s web site does not mention abortion. His campaign did not respond to a candidate questionnaire from Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

The outgoing incumbent, Hunt, who was first elected in 2010, is one of just 31 Republicans in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where Democrats (at 127) outnumber Republicans more than four to one.

Hunt is a moderate Republican with a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 70 percent (out of a possible 100). As of 2019 that was the 16th highest lifetime ACU rating among Republicans in the House, which puts him in the middle of the party — though, as State House News Service put it, “By Beacon Hill’s standards, Hunt is considered a conservative in the House.”

In May, Hunt said President Donald Trump is hurting the Republican Party in Massachusetts, and that the state party should not emphasize figures who support Trump. Hunt has endorsed Xiarhos to succeed him.

The winner of the Republican primary election will likely face off against Jim Dever in the general election this November, a Democrat, and a member of the Sandwich School Committee.

The district includes precincts 11 and 12 in Barnstable (which includes the village of West Barnstable); precincts 1, 2, and 7 in Bourne (which includes from Cape Cod Bay to the Bourne Bridge, and much of both sides of the Cape Cod Canal; the entire town of Sandwich; and precinct 9 in Plymouth.