Politics

Kevin Hayden projected to beat Ricardo Arroyo in Suffolk County DA’s race

Interim District Attorney Kevin Hayden emerged victorious over Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo in the intense Democratic primary.

Erin Clark/Globe Staff
City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, left, participates in a debate with Interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden at More Than Words Bookstore in Boston on Aug. 9. Erin Clark/Globe Staff
ELECTION RESULTS

Interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden beat out challenger Ricardo Arroyo, a Boston city councilor, in the Democratic primary for the county’s top prosecutor job. Tuesday’s vote is the culmination of a controversy-laden race to formally succeed former District Attorney Rachael Rollins, now the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

The Associated Press called the race for Hayden, who was leading with 54.7 percent of the vote over Arroyo’s 45.3 percent with nearly 85 percent of precincts reporting just before midnight.

The contentious race, which grew increasingly heated in the past month and into its final days, pitted Hayden, a political newcomer, against Arroyo, the young face of a connected and politically-savvy family.

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“Campaigns can be tough, long, arduous slogs, but this one has come to end,” Hayden told supporters after declaring victory.

There are no candidates for the Republican nomination for district attorney. Barring any write-in campaigns, Hayden will have an unchallenged bid for November’s general election.

“I am committed to making sure that our criminal legal system works for everybody,” Hayden said Tuesday. “For all those who voted for me, I thank you and I promise you I won’t let you down.”

Arroyo, meanwhile, held off from conceding late Tuesday night, citing votes still yet to be counted.

Hayden, 54, pitched himself as an experienced prosecutor, whose 25-year-long career included an 11-year stint in the very office he was appointed to oversee earlier this year by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

“The distinction between me and him when it comes to who’s the right fit and the right person with the experience to do this job, there’s just simply no comparison,” Hayden said last month.

In his time in office and since his campaign kick-off in February, Hayden has put an emphasis on using his post to help provide services over prosecution when possible, particularly for cases involving mental health and substance abuse.

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Hayden has also made clear he wants to aggressively pursue violent crime, including cracking down on unsolved shootings, which he said feeds and accelerates “cycles of violence.”

Arroyo, 34, meanwhile, positioned himself to voters as a progressive in the same vein as Rollins who will use his prior experience as a defense attorney to re-work a system he sees as broken, especially for people of color and people dealing with mental illness.

“It often works as sort of a factory processing floor,” he said last month. “So rather than looking at individuals, as individuals who have needs and things that we can do to stabilize their lives, which would help reduce crime, it instead looks at individuals as sort of problems to be solved through sentencing or through convictions.”

Arroyo’s platform included seeking help for folks dealing with substance abuse disorder instead of prosecution, working towards a policy for no-cash bail for nonviolent offenses, and reimplementing Rollins’s so-called “List of 15,” or list of offenses she opted to not prosecute as a rule of thumb, which Arroyo himself helped craft.

Tuesday’s Election Day bookended a tumultuous final few weeks of campaigning as both Arroyo and Hayden faced controversies brought on by separate Boston Globe reports.

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In early August, the race got a jolt when a Globe report invited questions about how Hayden’s office handled a case of an alleged cover-up by an MBTA Transit Police officer.

A man alleged that in April 2021, while driving in Mattapan, the officer, Jacob Green, pulled a gun on him during a traffic dispute. Green then allegedly had another officer pull the man over, and Green approached the vehicle in his uniform.

Records show Green later called another officer, Kevin Davis, who wrote a report in which he claimed to have witnessed the incident and that the man was going to assault Green. Transit Police have said the report, and two others, were false.

The investigation began under Rollins’s tenure.

According to the Globe, Green’s attorney said Assistant District Attorney Kevin Mullen, who Hayden hired, told him the case would not move forward. Hayden’s office has said that is false.

Green and his attorney also made donations to Hayden’s campaign, the newspaper reported. Hayden said at the time he would return those donations and that he did not solicit the donations, despite a claim he did from Green’s attorney.

Hayden repeatedly said the case had always remained open and active and has since opened a grand jury investigation.

Speaking with Boston.com last month, he defended his office and maintained he would always take cases of police misconduct seriously.

“We are sworn to protect and serve,” Hayden said. “We are held to an even higher standard because we are placed in a position of public trust. We will always guard and stand up against anything that violates that public trust, and we will never hesitate to prosecute someone by virtue of their job, whether it’s a job in uniform or whether it’s a job in a high-rise building. There’s no one that’s immune from prosecution by our office when appropriate.”

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Hayden was also been criticized by Arroyo on the trail for how Hayden managed the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board.

A 2017 audit conducted by state Auditor Suzanne Bump while Hayden was the board’s chairman found the board did not have the current addresses for 1,769 sex offenders who were in violation of reporting requirements, among other issues, according to the Globe.

For Arroyo, controversy sparked later in August following a Globe report which found Arroyo was investigated for possible sexual assaults twice as a teenager, in 2005 and 2007, but was never charged with a crime.

Arroyo, 34, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has said he had no knowledge of being the focus of any investigation until the Globe brought the matter to his attention for comment. The latter statement, though, is at odds with a police report filed in the 2005 case, in which investigators wrote they spoke with Arroyo, his mother, and his attorney at the time.

In a follow-up story from the Globe, the woman from the 2005 case told the newspaper last week she stands by what she told police: that Arroyo, who was a good friend of hers at the time, pressured her to perform oral sex, mentally manipulated her, and sent her threats via email.

As a result, Arroyo lost several high-profile endorsements, including from U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, within hours of the second report.

The woman in the case from 2007, via an attorney, has said Arroyo “never assaulted” her. Her initial allegations involved her belief that Arroyo may have raped her at a party.

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Arroyo petitioned in Suffolk Superior Court last week for access to investigation files related to the 2005 case. Upon receiving access to those files, Arroyo’s campaign released several documents saying the matter was determined to be “unfounded.”

Arroyo has framed the controversy as a political smear campaign driven by an illegal leak to the media. Hayden denied he, his office, or his campaign illegally leaked the documents to the press.

As recently as Saturday, Arroyo renewed calls for an independent investigation into the leak, asserting the detective who reviewed the 2005 case is now Hayden’s driver.

Arroyo also said he plans to file an ethics complaint against Hayden based on his allegation Hayden used his office for political gain.

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