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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who has served in the position since 2015, is now the front-runner to replace Charlie Baker as the state’s next governor. Three democrats and one republican are vying to replace Healey.
Among the democrats are former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, former assistant attorney general Quentin Palfrey, and class action lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan.
Republican Jay McMahon is a trial attorney and is running unopposed.
Voters will first choose between Campbell, Liss-Riordan, and Palfrey during the Democratic primary on Sept. 6, before choosing between the winner of that primary and McMahon on Nov. 8.
In an effort to give voters a more complete picture of the Democratic candidates ahead of the primary, Boston.com asked each candidate five questions about key issues. Their answers can be found below.
Note: Candidate answers have been edited for length and clarity. A PDF document containing the full and unedited answers given by all three candidates can be found at the bottom of the page.
Campbell: The recent demonstrations of hate and racism across our state are cowardly and unacceptable. I will continue to stand firm in calling out these acts of hate, and as attorney general will use the full power of the office to prosecute any injustice. I would also work with the U.S Attorney’s Office to track this activity, collect data, and combat all acts of hate and racism.
Palfrey: The attorney general must vigorously enforce our civil rights and hate crimes laws and send an unmistakable message that hate has no home in Massachusetts. I have direct experience working on issues relating to domestic terrorism from my time in the Obama Administration, where I served as the U.S. Department of Commerce’s representative on an interagency task force on countering violent extremism.
Liss-Riordan: These acts are a form of domestic terrorism, and it’s important that the attorney general is investigating early before things potentially escalate. As attorney general, I will increase resources to the Civil Rights Division and ramp up enforcement of our civil rights laws on a systemic level. I will ensure that the Office’s civil rights attorneys work across bureaus and divisions to tackle discrimination effectively in housing, employment, education, public accommodations, and more. I will increase outreach initiatives for the Civil Rights Division and strengthen partnerships with civil rights and community organizations across Massachusetts. I will require regular reporting directly to me of the activity of these groups in our state.
Campbell: I will work in partnership with our next governor to hold the MBTA to the highest standard of accountability as your attorney general. I’m supportive of the Fair Share Amendment and will use the bully pulpit of the AG’s office to push for the amendment, which will provide adequate funding for safe transit across Massachusetts. Additionally, as AG, I will push the MBTA to meet its diversity requirements to ensure greater economic opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color.
Palfrey: As attorney general, I will launch an investigation into the circumstances that have led to public safety, civil rights, and financial problems with our public transportation system. I am the only candidate for attorney general who has called for an AG investigation of the T. As the Commonwealth’s chief civil rights officer, the AG must ensure that there is equitable access to public transit. As AG, I’ll partner with the inspector general and auditor to hold our public transit to the standard the people of Massachusetts deserve.
Liss-Riordan: I am supporting the Fair Share Amendment to make sure that our transportation systems have sustained funding, not just for quick fixes, but to keep them going for the long run. As attorney general, I will take a close look at the MBTA’s overuse of outsourcing maintenance and other important planning work to outside consultants. These contractors not only sidestep unions, but they are also higher cost to the MBTA than in-house talent, who know the MBTA’s systems better and whose expertise should be consulted and utilized in keeping our transportation system functioning.
Importantly, we deserve to know exactly what the MBTA is going to be doing during shutdowns like the Orange Line shutdown we are experiencing. As attorney general, I will work with the state auditor to ensure we know where our tax dollars are being spent and hold accountable those who are entrusted with the critical maintenance and upgrading of the MBTA.
Campbell: I will make sure that Massachusetts remains a leader in protecting abortion rights and expanding reproductive care. I am proud to have the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts who believe I am the candidate best suited to meet this critical moment and stand up for reproductive care.
As attorney general, I am committed to creating a cross-bureau reproductive justice unit [that will] protect abortion patients and providers, enforce data privacy laws, develop new ways to hold crisis pregnancy centers accountable, and defend our laws from legal challenges that may originate in and out of state. I also believe it’s critical to expand the conversation on reproductive care to intentionally address disparities in maternal health, especially in Black, brown, and low-income rural communities.
Palfrey: Massachusetts must be a safe harbor for those fleeing persecution from other states. At a time when red states are passing more and more audacious laws restricting access to abortion, Massachusetts can take immediate steps to prepare to litigate interstate issues. I will also be prepared to defend our world-class healthcare providers from attempts by other states to legally harass them or criminalize this essential care.
As AG I will work to reduce barriers to accessing abortion care, with particular attention paid to ensure access for low income communities, communities of color, and students on college campuses. I will also pay close attention to regional equity and ensure that all parts of the state, from the Berkshires to the Cape & Islands, have access to abortion care within reasonable traveling distance. I will also crack down on crisis pregnancy centers which pose as legitimate health care facilities but often deceive pregnant people seeking access to abortion care, and stand up for tightening data privacy protections so that mobile apps are not able to share health data with those looking to criminalize abortion.
Liss-Riordan: I will aggressively fight back against any attempts by other states to reach into Massachusetts and enforce their draconian anti-choice laws against people coming here for abortion and other reproductive health care services. I will also use our strong consumer protection laws to take on so-called crisis pregnancy centers for their manipulative and deceptive practices. And I will use the powers of the office to fight systemic racism in our health care system and address maternal health disparities impacting communities of color.
Campbell: I have always pushed for more affordable housing, including by sponsoring legislation that generates over $20 million annually for affordable housing creation in the city of Boston. As attorney general, I will continue these efforts and fight to ensure everyone has access to safe, healthy, and affordable housing. That means holding landlords accountable, fighting housing discrimination, preventing predatory lending, and protecting residents against unlawful foreclosures.
Palfrey: Laws in Massachusetts are currently tilted in favor of landlords and lenders. The attorney general must play a role in increasing protections and leveling the playing field for renters and homeowners. As AG, I’ll develop a Housing Stability unit to crack down on abuses by the biggest landlords, enforce fair housing statutes that prevent discrimination against disabilities or those with addiction or mental health challenges, and remove barriers faced by people with criminal records.
Liss-Riordan: As attorney general, I will establish an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the AG’s Office to provide more resources and legal assistance for tenants, help mediate disputes between tenants and landlords, and connect people with emergency housing services. I will crack down on slumlords and absentee landlords who leave tenants in unsafe housing situations and will advocate for new legislation to ensure that all of our housing stock is free from the ongoing hazard of lead paint. I will also support critically needed legislation to enhance tenant protections, such as just cause eviction, tenant right to counsel, and eviction sealing.
Campbell: I believe every attorney general builds on the legacy of those who came before them. As attorney general, I will expand the reach of the office to better serve everyone in Massachusetts, protect our civil and reproductive rights, hold corporations that pollute our environment and price-gougers accountable, and move the needle on prison and criminal legal reform.
Palfrey: For our next AG, I see an important opportunity to stand up for transparency and democracy. Massachusetts is the only state where the Governor’s Office, Legislature, and Judiciary claim full exemptions from the public records laws. As attorney general, I will ensure the AG’s Office is always forthcoming with public records, and that the executive departments we counsel do so as well. I will use the office’s bully pulpit to push the legislature to be more responsive to the public by taking more roll call votes and publishing the results of those votes, so that the people of Massachusetts can learn how their elected representatives voted on legislation that impacts their lives.
Liss-Riordan: I will continue and expand on the important work that Maura Healey has been doing to take on Exxon [Mobil] in court for lying to us for decades about climate change. However, Exxon is not the only bad actor in this area — there are other corporations that need to be brought into this litigation. I also plan to use penalties that we will recover from these big polluters to set up a Green Bank to fund environmental energy and justice projects.
I’m also ready on day one to continue the important work AG Healey has done to hold big pharma accountable for the devastation they have brought us through the opioid epidemic. AG Healey has reached a settlement now with one of the major players, Purdue Pharma, but this work is far from done. There are many corporations that have still not been held accountable.
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