Massachusetts attorney general race focuses on crime, equity

In the race for Massachusetts attorney general voters face a choice between Democrat Andrea Campbell and Republican Jay McMahon — each hoping to break new ground while highlighting very different priorities

Steve Leblanc
Tuesday 08 November 2022 10:00 GMT

In the race for Massachusetts attorney general voters are choosing between Democrat Andrea Campbell and Republican Jay McMahon — each hoping to break new ground while highlighting very different priorities during their campaigns.

If elected, Campbell, a former Boston city councilor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year, would become the first Black woman to serve as the state's top law enforcement officer, while McMahon would be the first Republican elected to the post since the 1960s.

Campbell has promised a focus on equity while McMahon has vowed to target crime and corruption.

Campbell has also spoken openly about her father's and brothers’ involvement in the criminal justice system, including her twin brother Andre who died in state custody.

The 40-year-old has pointed to a public education system in Boston with helping put her in schools that opened doors to success while her brother’s schools had far fewer resources. She also said that as a girl she was less likely to be racially profiled than her brother by the criminal justice system.

Campbell attended Princeton University and UCLA Law School and later served as deputy legal counsel to former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

During the campaign, Campbell said she would “look at every issue through an equity lens.” She said Massachusetts residents don’t all have the same access to affordable health care or housing and aren’t all affected equally by the criminal justice system, crime or the climate crisis.

Campbell said she is “living proof that a girl who grew up in public housing with a family torn apart by incarceration, crime and poverty, with the help and support of a community could become the first Black woman president of the Boston City Council.”

She added that communities of color are “disproportionately policed and incarcerated,” and the contrast in funding and quality of schools – when broken down by income, race, and region – is stark.

McMahon, who said during the campaign that Campbell would be soft on crime, has also pointed to a personal tragedy as motivation for running for attorney general. McMahon said his son Joel, an Army veteran, died in 2008 as the result of an opioid overdose.

He said he wanted to ensure other families don’t have to suffer a similar tragedy.

McMahon, 68, has also vowed to investigate corruption at all levels of government in Massachusetts and to protect residents from what he described as the “renegade mobs who destroy our cities.”

“I will vigorously prosecute ‘woke’ mobs who harm people and/or property,” he said in a statement. “I will work to abolish Sanctuary Cities since they assist in violating laws.”

The last Republican elected attorney general in Massachusetts was Elliot Richardson in 1966. Richardson later served as U.S. Attorney General until he resigned in 1973 rather than follow President Nixon’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal.

Campbell had won the endorsement of Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democratic candidate for governor, as well as four prior state attorneys general, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley — all Democrats.

If elected, she would be the third woman in a row to hold the office of attorney general in Massachusetts. All the prior attorneys general were men.

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