Attorney general, secretary of state candidates tout vision at Democratic forum




  • Democratic candidates for Massachusetts attorney general gathered at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Monday evening for a candidates forum. PHOTO BY SABATO VISCONTI

  • Democratic candidates for Massachusetts attorney general gathered at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Monday evening for a candidates forum hosted by the Northampton Democratic City Committee. Candidates Andrea Campbell, Shannon Liss-Riordan and Quentin Palfrey attended, answering select questions from a panel and offering statements. PHOTO BY SABATO VISCONTI 

Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2022 11:55:39 AM
Modified: 5/5/2022 11:54:08 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Candidates for attorney general, auditor and secretary of the commonwealth participated in a forum Monday organized by the Northampton Democratic City Committee.

Attorney general candidates Andrea Campbell, Shannon Liss-Riordan and Quentin Palfrey, auditor candidates Chris Dempsey and Diana DiZoglio and secretary of the commonwealth candidate Tanisha Sullivan all participated in the event.

According to Elizabeth Silver, speaking on behalf of the Democratic City Committee, incumbent Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin did not answer multiple invitations to attend the forum.

“We did not get a response from him,” Silver said.

In their opening remarks, all three attorney general candidates emphasized the power the attorney general’s office has to deliver for the public.

“It can indeed help families with everything they’re grappling with every single day,” said Campbell, a former Boston City Council president.

Campbell also noted her background as someone whose mother died when she was 8 months old, whose father and brothers cycled in and out of prison and whose twin died in the custody of the Department of Correction.

“Now, more than ever, we need the people’s lawyer to lead on the really big challenges that we face,” said Palfrey, who has served as an assistant attorney general in Massachusetts.

Palfrey also served in the Biden administration, and noted that as someone who grew up in Worcester County he knows that Beacon Hill doesn’t always see beyond the greater Boston area.

“I have spent my entire career taking on the biggest challenges and delivering big results for regular people,” said Liss-Riordan, who works as a labor lawyer.

Liss-Riordan leaned into being the only practicing attorney among the candidates, and noted that she has won judgments against companies and institutions such as Starbucks, FedEx and Harvard University.

All three candidates praised the work Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running for governor, has done in the office when asked what they would do differently.

“We’re building off of an incredibly successful legacy in the office,” Palfrey said.

Liss-Riordan said that she was the most qualified for the job because of her record holding corporations accountable.

“I have led teams of lawyers to recover hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said.

“Laws don’t enforce themselves,” Liss-Riordan continued. “I am ready on Day 1.”

Campbell, meanwhile, said she would prioritize the issues of prison reform, juvenile justice and criminal legal reform.

“These issues affect many families,” she said.

Campbell also said she would look at things through an intersectional lens.

When the candidates were asked about the civil rights division, and whether or not it has sufficient resources, Campbell pointed to the issue of police reform.

“Public corruption includes policing reform,” Campbell said.

She also emphasized that on issues of racism and anti-Semitism in education “the civil rights division has a critical role to play.”

Palfrey, meanwhile, said that the murder of George Floyd showed that there are two kinds of justice in this country.

“The AG needs to lead on criminal justice reform,” he said. “The AG needs to take on structural racism.”

Additionally, he said that tackling structural racism in housing and education was also essential.

“Where you live and the color of your skin shouldn’t determine the education that you get,” he said.

Liss-Riordan, meanwhile, noted her own work as a civil rights attorney in getting more police officers and firefighters of color hired, and taking on IBM on age discrimination.

“I think the civil rights division needs more resources,” she said.

The candidates also tackled the issue of qualified immunity for police officers.

“I do believe that that is a policy that we should move away from,” Palfrey said.

Liss-Riordan, meanwhile, said that she drafted decisions on qualified immunity as a judicial clerk, and said that the doctrine has become stagnant.

“We need to spell out the rules more clearly,” she said, while pledging to work with the Legislature to reform it and ensuring better training for police officers.

Campbell took a position opposing qualified immunity.

“At the end of the day this is a bar to accountability,” she said.

The candidates also touted their endorsements. Liss-Riordan noted she was endorsed by about 40 labor unions and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, Campbell noted that she is backed by U.S Sen. Ed Markey and former Congressman Joe Kennedy III, while Palfrey noted that he was endorsed by Progressive Mass and the Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts.

Secretary ofthe commonwealth

Sullivan had the stage all to herself in the secretary of the commonwealth section, and Galvin’s absence was noted by the panel.

Sullivan, a practicing attorney and the president of Boston’s NAACP branch, said that she is approaching the role as a civil rights leader, and emphasized the importance of championing voting rights.

“I believe that the secretary of state has been solely focused on the administrative aspect of the role,” Sullivan said, referring to Galvin.

However, she said that she did not believe he has been focused on being a champion of democracy.

“We’re going to do more than just check the box,” she said. “We’re going to make sure that this office is helping to deliver on the full promise of this country.”

She also described Massachusetts having itslegislative, judiciary and executive branches being exempt from public records law as “unacceptable.”

In the auditor portion, Dempsey emphasized his experience successfully opposing Boston’s Olympic bid and his work as an official in the Deval Patrick administration.

DiZoglio, meanwhile, cited her work in the Legislature seeking to hold the powerful accountable, and emphasized the investigative power of the auditor’s role.

The forum took place at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School and the candidates were asked questions by a panel that consisted of Daily Hampshire Gazette Executive Editor Dan Crowley, local attorney and WHMP radio host Bill Newman and Elena Frogameni, a Mount Holyoke College senior, Rhodes Scholar and Northampton High School graduate. Former Mayor Clare Higgins moderated the event.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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