Massachusetts Attorney General election, 2022

The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General is an elected position that serves as the chief legal officer for the state government. The attorney general is responsible for providing legal counsel to state agencies and enforcing state consumer protection, civil rights, and public corruption laws.

The attorney general is elected to four-year terms with no term limits. Incumbent Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat first elected in 2014, did not seek re-election in 2022 and instead ran for governor. This opened up the attorney general race with no incumbent for the first time since 2010.

2022 Election Overview

The 2022 election cycle in Massachusetts saw competitive primaries take shape in the races for both attorney general and governor, with Democratic incumbents in both offices opting not to seek re-election.

On the Democratic side, three candidates jumped into the open attorney general race. The Republican primary, meanwhile, ended up being uncontested. The dynamics of the primaries, along with prevailing political winds in deeply blue Massachusetts, shaped the dynamics of the general election campaign between Democrat Andrea Campbell and Republican Jay McMahon.

Democratic Candidates

The three Democrats seeking the open attorney general seat brought distinct profiles to the race.

Andrea Campbell

Andrea Campbell, a former Boston City Council member, highlighted criminal justice reform in her campaign. If elected, she would be the first Black woman to serve as Massachusetts attorney general.

Key issues Campbell emphasized included overhauling the state’s cash bail system, improving police accountability, and addressing racial inequities in the legal system. She positioned herself as the reform candidate in the race.

Campbell leaned on her personal story on the campaign trail. She grew up in public housing in Mattapan and lost her twin brother to an asthma attack in state custody when he was 29 years old.

On the Boston City Council, Campbell sought to address inequities in Boston’s public education system and promote police reform. She has a law degree from UCLA.

Shannon Liss-Riordan

Shannon Liss-Riordan is an attorney who specializes in labor law and workers’ rights cases. She emphasized taking on corporations and powerful special interests as attorney general.

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Liss-Riordan talked up her legal experience representing workers against companies like Uber, Lyft, Google, and Starbucks. She argued this record fighting big corporations would make her an effective attorney general.

Her platform included cracking down on wage theft, protecting reproductive rights, and addressing the state’s mental health crisis. Liss-Riordan positioned herself as an anti-establishment outsider candidate.

Quentin Palfrey

Quentin Palfrey worked under Attorney General Maura Healey as head of the Health Care Division and served in the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Obama.

Palfrey stressed his government experience in areas like healthcare and consumer protection. His priorities included expanding affordable housing, fighting the opioid epidemic, and combating climate change through legal action.

Though Palfrey suspended campaign events in August, his name still appeared on the primary ballot. He trailed Campbell and Liss-Riordan in fundraising and endorsements entering primary election day.

Republican Candidates

Jay McMahon

On the Republican side, Jay McMahon, an attorney, was the only candidate to enter the race before the filing deadline. He ran unopposed in the GOP primary.

McMahon positioned himself as a conservative counterweight to the Democratic field. His campaign emphasized issues like public safety, tax cuts, school choice, and opposing COVID-19 mandates.

This marked McMahon’s third run for attorney general. He lost to Maura Healey in the 2014 and 2018 general elections. With Healey not seeking re-election, McMahon saw an opening to run again.

Primary Election Results

The Democratic and Republican primaries set the stage for a Campbell vs. McMahon general election matchup.

Democratic Primary

In the Democratic primary held on September 6, Andrea Campbell emerged victorious with 50% of the vote. Shannon Liss-Riordan finished second with 34% of the vote. Quentin Palfrey, despite suspending his campaign, still received 16% as his name remained on the ballot.

Campbell showed strength with voters of color and benefitted from consolidating support among progressives and establishment Democrats. Liss-Riordan’s anti-establishment message resonated with some voters frustrated with the status quo. But Campbell ultimately prevailed.

Republican Primary

With no Republican challenger entering the race, Jay McMahon coasted to victory in the lightly contested GOP primary. He received over 99% of the vote against minimal write-in opposition.

McMahon looked ahead to the general election, hoping to boost GOP turnout by campaigning with Republican gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl.

General Election Campaign

The dynamics of the primary shaped the general election contest between Andrea Campbell and Jay McMahon.

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Campbell vs. McMahon

Andrea Campbell entered the general election after claiming the Democratic nomination with a coalition of progressive and establishment support. Her historic candidacy as a Black woman cemented her status as the favorite in the blue state.

Jay McMahon faced the uphill battle of any Republican running statewide in deeply Democratic Massachusetts. He sought to rally conservatives by accentuating policy differences with Campbell on issues like crime, taxes, and education.

With both candidates attorneys, the race did not center on qualifications. Instead, Campbell and McMahon focused on contrasting their visions for the office.

Key Issues

Criminal justice reform and reproductive rights emerged as flashpoints. Campbell advocated an equitable justice system, while McMahon campaigned on tougher policies to combat crime. Campbell promised to defend abortion rights, as McMahon called himself “pro-life.”

Other major issues included climate change, with Campbell stressing litigation against polluters and McMahon criticizing energy costs. Healthcare access and the opioid epidemic were also concerns for voters.

Endorsements

Campbell drew endorsements from Democratic leaders like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, while McMahon touted backing from law enforcement groups.

The candidates split newspaper endorsements. Campbell won backing from the Boston Globe for promoting racial justice and defending rights. The Boston Herald endorsed McMahon for focusing on public safety and constitutional freedoms.

Fundraising

Campbell held a dominant fundraising advantage over McMahon. She raised over $1.3 million for her campaign as of mid-October, far exceeding McMahon’s $114,000 in contributions reported.

Campbell benefitted from national Democratic donors invested in defending the party’s control of statewide offices in Massachusetts. McMahon relied more on in-state individual donors to fund his underdog effort.

Polling

Pre-election polls reflected the Democratic lean of the state. Surveys showed Campbell consistently ahead by double-digit margins.

An October poll by MassINC gave Campbell a 31-point lead over McMahon. Another October poll by the University of Massachusetts Amherst had Campbell up by 26 points. McMahon faced a steep challenge overcoming the partisan dynamics.

General Election Results

In the November 8 general election, Andrea Campbell defeated Jay McMahon by a margin of 63% to 37% to become Massachusetts attorney general-elect.

Campbell won by sweeping margins in the heavily populated Greater Boston region. McMahon’s best performances came in more conservative areas like Plymouth County and central Massachusetts.

Ultimately, the blue tilt of the state and Campbell’s strong campaign propelled her to victory as the overwhelming favorite. McMahon found too steep a climb as the Republican nominee.

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Analysis of Outcome

Andrea Campbell’s decisive win speaks to several factors that shaped the dynamics and results of the election.

Historic Nature of Campbell’s Win

Campbell will make history as the first Black woman to serve as Massachusetts attorney general. Her identity as a Black progressive who overcame adversity resonated powerfully with voters.

Women of color have long faced barriers to entering statewide office. Campbell’s victory represents a major milestone for Massachusetts politics. It also continues a nationwide trend of voters electing diverse candidates.

Role of Primary Dynamics

By consolidating support across the Democratic coalition, Campbell gained momentum through the primary into the general election. Her strong fundraising enabled her to reach voters statewide.

Meanwhile, McMahon’s uncompetitive primary provided little preparation for the realities of running statewide against an energized Democrat in November. He struggled to gain traction.

Implications for State Politics

Campbell’s win reaffirms Democratic dominance in Massachusetts statewide races. It also positions her as a leading voice in the party alongside the newly elected governor and other rising diverse leaders.

Looking ahead, Campbell is well positioned to use the office as a platform on issues like criminal justice reform. Her political future in the state will be closely watched after this historic victory.

Conclusion

The 2022 election of Andrea Campbell as Massachusetts attorney general marks an historic milestone. Campbell overcame a competitive Democratic primary and defeated Republican Jay McMahon on the November ballot. Her candidacy inspired many, while showcasing her capabilities.

Campbell will bring a unique perspective shaped by her life experiences and vision for reform. Now she will have the opportunity to implement her agenda for equitable justice. This campaign was groundbreaking for Massachusetts politics. Most importantly, Campbell’s leadership could result in meaningful improvements to the lives of citizens across the state.

FAQ

Who were the candidates running for Massachusetts attorney general in 2022?

The Democratic candidates were Andrea Campbell, Shannon Liss-Riordan, and Quentin Palfrey. The sole Republican candidate was Jay McMahon. Campbell and McMahon advanced from their respective primaries.

What were some key issues in the attorney general race?

Criminal justice reform, reproductive rights, climate change, healthcare access, and the opioid epidemic were among the major issues discussed during the campaign. The candidates diverged on issues like police reform and abortion rights.

How much money did the candidates raise?

Andrea Campbell held a commanding fundraising advantage, raising over $1.3 million as of mid-October. Jay McMahon raised around $114,000 for his Republican campaign.

Who won the Democratic primary for attorney general?

Andrea Campbell prevailed in the three-way Democratic primary with 50% of the vote, defeating Shannon Liss-Riordan and Quentin Palfrey.

Who did Andrea Campbell defeat in the general election?

Campbell faced Republican nominee Jay McMahon in the November 8 general election and won by a 63% to 37% margin.

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