Endorsements taking center stage in race for DA, attorney general

Wu, Warren, Markey rescind backing of Arroyo  

WHAT’S THE VALUE of an endorsement? 

That question is getting tested in races up and down the primary ballot as candidates jockey for advantage leading up the September 6 vote. But nowhere are the powers of persuasion through endorsements more consequential than in the Democratic primary for Suffolk County district attorney. 

The contest has been rocked by a Boston Globe report that Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who is running against sitting DA Kevin Hayden, was the subject of two separate allegations of sexual assault, when he was 18 and 19 years old. Arroyo not only denies the allegations, he says he was never even informed that he was under investigation, a claim that the Globe says is contradicted by police reports the paper has obtained. 

When the news broke last week, former congressman Joe Kennedy III and City Council President Ed Flynn quickly rescinded their endorsements of Arroyo. If there was a firewall keeping his campaign from going up in flames, it has been the continued backing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Michelle Wu, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. 

The Globe reports today that the woman behind one of the allegations has come forward to tell the paper she stands by her account and that Arroyo’s denial “makes me feel sick.”  

Wu said last week that the allegations were “troubling,” but she wanted to see how the “story evolves.” In the wake of the new Globe report, Wu, Warren, and Sen. Ed Markey pulled their endorsements of Arroyo on Wednesday morning.

Endorsements don’t matter a lot in high-profile match-ups of Democrats against Republicans, “where the battle lines are clear,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group. “But in low-information contests they may serve as a signal to voters who don’t have any other way to make up their mind.” 

That may also be true in the Democratic primary for attorney general, which has become the marquee statewide contest now that the party’s choice for governor is clear. The AG’s race is now a one-on-one face-off between Andrea Campbell and Shannon Liss-Riordan following yesterday’s announcement by Quentin Palfrey that he’s dropping out of the race. 

Palfrey is throwing his support behind Campbell, a move that led Liss-Riordan’s campaign to issue a harsh statement accusing him of playing “petty politics” to “curry favor with political elites.” 

Palfrey may sway some voters toward Campbell; the blistering statement from Liss-Riordan’s camp suggests the move will carry some weight. But with a recent poll showing that 77 percent of likely Democratic primary voters had never heard of Palfrey, it’s not clear how much of a punch his endorsement will pack. 

Newspaper endorsements can also make a difference in races where voters are looking for signals. But huge cuts at newspapers in recent years have seen many of them give up on endorsements with no one staffing editorial pages. 

In the state’s second largest city, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette is no longer offering endorsements. Michael McDermott, who took the reins last month as the paper’s executive editor, said there is no opinion editor and he is doing double duty and handling op-ed submissions. The Boston Herald has made no endorsements in the primary. Editorial page editor Sandra Kent didn’t respond to a message asking about the paper’s policy on endorsements. 

The Boston Globe, by far the most influential editorial page in the state, is weighing in with endorsements. On Monday, media critic Dan Kennedy pointed out that Globe endorsements have been slow to be rolled out, given that mail-in voting started in late July. The paper’s latest endorsement came that day when it gave its nod in the AG’s race to Campbell, whom the Globe also endorsed in last year’s Boston mayoral race. 

Jim Dao, a veteran New York Times journalist who took the helm in early July as the paper’s new editorial page editor, said that transition is part of the reason for endorsements not coming sooner, along with some delays in scheduling candidates for interviews. “We would have liked to have started the process a bit sooner to reach early voters,” he said in an email. 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The Globe has yet to make an endorsement in the Suffolk DA’s race, but Dao said that has been a conscious decision. “We decided to hold off until the last minute making an endorsement in the Suffolk DA race because of the major news developments,” he said.