After the most intense contest in memory at a county election, Dukes County sheriff Mike McCormack was back in his office yesterday, but offering the prospect of some changes in response to the criticisms of his two challengers.

As it turned out, Mr. McCormack won re-election reasonably comfortably in Tuesday’s election, receiving 4,509 votes across the six Island towns, compared with 3,251 for his main challenger, former state police Sgt. Neal Maciel. The third candidate, former Oak Bluffs Det. Warren Gosson, garnered 405 votes.

But, as Mr. Maciel noted after the event: “When you get over 3,200 votes against an incumbent Democrat in a community as strongly pro-Democrat as Martha’s Vineyard, I think people are sending a message that they’re not pleased.”

Mr. Maciel ran on a platform of greater discipline at the Island jail, both among the inmates and the staff. He advocated strip searches of prisoners returning from work release programs, as a response to drug use in jail, and a stricter chain of command and more training of staff. And he promised to wind back the policy of taking prisoners from off-Island.

Mr. Gosson stressed two main issues: more substance abuse programs and more comprehensive background checks for people employed to work with young people on the Island. The checks currently performed through the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system only revealed past criminal offences within Massachusetts. He promoted expanding the use of the more comprehensive National Crime Information Check.

Yesterday Mr. McCormack said he had taken on board some of the criticisms of current practices and the need to at least explain better some other practices.

“There are always lessons to learn,” he said.

In particular, he undertook to respond to Mr. Gosson’s suggestion about better background checks.

“I will have a conversation with the superintendent of schools and offer my assistance in running more extensive checks [on school employees] if he and the school committee feel that is the proper thing to do,” he said.

He also noted police concerns about the amount of time taken to book people at the jail. Particularly in summer, he acknowledged, police were sometimes forced to wait in line with offenders because of processing back-ups.

He said he had already placed the issue on the agenda for a meeting with police chiefs on Monday. But, given the constraints of the current jail facilities — he had advocated for a new and larger jail for more than a decade — he did not see a solution.

Mr. McCormack said Mr. Maciel’s advocacy of a tougher approach to jail discipline was a “non-issue, but one that was certainly out there.”

As a result, he said, he had to explain his philosophy, that regular strip-searching of prisoners on work release was not only unnecessary but counter-productive when used against prisoners close to release back into the community.

“My philosophy is that you use strip searches only when there’s a reasonable suspicion, as opposed to doing it on a regular basis. Most contraband can be discovered with a thorough pat search, so long as officers are properly doing what they’ve been trained to do.

“And we do regular, random urine analysis testing. So if somebody’s out on work release they know they could be subject to a breath analysis or a urine analysis test when they come back,” he said, adding:

“Is it going to be 100 per cent effective all of the time? Nothing is.”

Though he dismissed most of Mr. Maciel’s criticisms of his regime, Mr. McCormack acknowledged the intense campaign had at least focused the attention of Vineyard voters on practices in his department.

“Actually, I’m pleased that the voters took time to understand my philosophy and to do a little examining of the issues. I’m glad they looked into things, and didn’t just see a name on a placard somewhere and say ‘Oh, I see that person’s name more than the other name so that’s how I’ll vote.’

“There were two clear ways to go [in the election] and they went with my approach,” he said.

He also conceded the well-organized Maciel campaign had forced him to play catch-up politics.

The sheriff said he had spoken to both the losing candidates after the election, and they had extended their congratulations.

“And I would like to say I know both these gentlemen and I always respected their work as police officers,” Mr. McCormack said.

For his part, Mr. Maciel said he was pleased to have come so close to victory.

“I’m very proud of the campaign that we ran,” he said. “We did it clean, we did everything aboveboard, and I think it played a good role in educating people quite a bit into the role of the sheriff. I think it opened a lot of eyes.

“I believe that’s the way it should be done. I talked to some of the people holding signs for Mike and the other Democrats, and we had some good exchanges. It was friendly and that’s the way politics should be. It shouldn’t be dirty and nasty and eye-gouging,” he said, adding:

“I’m very proud of the people who came forward to help. The poll workers who came out to hold signs. In the freezing temperatures, some people were there all day long. But it’s very difficult to unseat a Democratic incumbent on this Island. I think that showed across the state, and particularly here. They were very well organized.”

He said he now intended to take some time off, build a new shed, visit his father and think about the future.

Mr. Maciel’s point about the difficulty of defeating anyone with Democrat next to their name on the Vineyard was underlined by the other results in Tuesday’s midterm election, seen nationally as reflecting the angry mood among voters across the country.

But at a time when the rest of the nation swung heavily conservative, and where results at the polls were close, including in other parts of Massachusetts, they were not on this Island.

Vineyard voters turned out in large numbers on a sunny, brisk November day. Between 60 per cent and two-thirds of registered voters showed up in most towns. They went heavily for incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick who was locked in a tight race against conservative Charlie Baker. The Island vote was 4,877 for Mr. Patrick and 2,723 for Mr. Baker.

And the result in the 10th congressional district, which includes the Cape and Islands and South Shore up through Quincy, was perhaps the best example of the Democratic wave here. Before the election, the district was considered the conservatives’ best chance to pick up a seat in the commonwealth, but Democrat William Keating won the closely-fought contest to take the seat being vacated by Cong. William Delahunt.

On the Vineyard, however, the margin was almost two to one: 4,985 to 2,556. In Edgartown, generally considered the most Republican of the towns, it was much closer — 1,032 to 967 — while in Aquinnah, the Democratic bastion at the other end of the Island, the vote was 157 to 26 for Mr. Keating.

Vineyard resident Joe Van Nes, who ran as the Bring the Troops Home candidate, got 519 votes.

On ballot questions, Islanders collectively voted against two questions seeking to change the sales tax regime, although Edgartown bucked the trend, by a bare majority (925 to 896) on question one, which would have removed a sales tax on alcoholic drinks. Statewide, the alcohol sales tax repeal was approved.

Across all six towns, however, Islanders voted no on question one, by a margin of 4,414 to 3,601.

The other sales tax issue, question three on the ballot, which would have reduced the general state sales tax from 6.25 to three per cent, was rejected 4,567 to 3,380 on the Island, mirroring the vote statewide which also rejected the question.

Question two, which sought to repeal chapter 40B, the state affordable housing law, went down on the Island 4,894 to 2,738, again mirroring the statewide vote.

A fourth, nonbinding ballot question yielded the most decisive result of all the questions. By margin of 5,043 to 2,333, Island voters favored legislation that would see marijuana legalized and taxed in the same way as alcohol. West Tisbury showed itself to be the most pot-friendly town on the Vineyard; the margin there was more than three to one in favor.