Jay McMahon announces AG run in unusual fashion 

State Republican Party makes announcement  

REPUBLICAN JAY MCMAHON on Tuesday announced he was launching a second campaign for attorney general in an announcement made in unusual fashion – by the Massachusetts Republican Party. 

McMahon launched his campaign with a strong anti-drug platform, an opposition to COVID vaccine mandates for first responders, and a critique of the “wokeness” of state political leaders, including outgoing Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey. McMahon said political leaders today are “more concerned for the perpetrators of crimes than we are the victims of crime.”  

But one of the most unusual facets of McMahon’s launch was not what he said, but who said it. Typically, candidates make announcements through their own campaign committee. But the press release announcing McMahon’s candidacy came from the Massachusetts Republican Party. It even included a disclosure at the end, which said, “Paid for by the Massachusetts Republican Party/Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” 

Jay McMahon

McMahon could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He did not return a message left on his cell phone, and a receptionist at his law office said he was in court in the morning. 

The state party typically remains neutral in primaries. Evan Lips, a spokesperson for the MassGOP, did not respond directly to a request for comment on why McMahon’s announcement came from the party. But three hours after releasing the announcement, the party sent out a follow-up press release responding to media inquiries about the party’s involvement. “Jay McMahon is the first Republican to announce a campaign for the office of attorney general,” party chair Jim Lyons said in the statement. “The Massachusetts Republican Party stands committed to electing Republicans and helping them in any way it can.” 

Healey is leaving the AG’s office to run for governor. Three Democrats are running to replace her: Andrea Campbell, Shannon Liss-Riordan, and Quentin Palfrey. 

McMahon served in the Army National Guard as a military police lieutenant in the 1970s. He worked in law enforcement, then spent most of his career as a trial attorney, working for his father then in his own practice. He is a lifelong resident of Buzzards Bay, in the Cape Cod town of Bourne.  

After an unsuccessful run for state representative in 1998, McMahon ran for attorney general in 2018, losing to Healey in the general election, 70 percent to 30 percent. He ran for state Senate in 2020 and lost to Democrat Susan Moran, 56 percent to 44 percent.  

As of Tuesday afternoon, McMahon’s website still advertised his campaign for state Senate. His campaign committee, formed for his earlier runs, was listed as dissolved on the Office of Campaign and Political Finance website. McMahon’s announcement said he will file papers to organize a new committee.  

McMahon’s close ties to the Massachusetts Republican Party come amid a split within the party. Lyons, who is from the more conservative wing of the party, and moderate GOP governor Charlie Baker have publicly feuded. Lyons has struggled to maintain control of the party, with two recent State Committee meetings dissolving without a quorum, due to a boycott and a walkout.  

McMahon has taken consistently conservative positions. In his statement, he said he would join litigation to support first responders opposed to COVID vaccine mandates. He voiced support for parents questioning school committees “who insist on teaching our children Critical Race Theory.”  

As some district attorneys, notably former Suffolk district attorney and current US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins, have moved away from prosecuting quality of life offenses, McMahon said he would step in and charge people for these offenses, if local prosecutors do not. “We just cannot refuse to enforce the law and let anarchy rein [sic] in our streets,” McMahon said. 

McMahon’s son died of an opioid overdose, and McMahon has made cracking down on drug crimes a centerpiece of both his campaigns for attorney general. In 2018, he said he would ask for the maximum penalty legally allowed in every drug case his office prosecuted. 

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Also Tuesday, in another unusual campaign move, former Republican state representative Kate Campanale announced that she was running for lieutenant governor as part of a ticket with GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Doughty.  

Doughty is a businessman and moderate Republican who is facing a primary against Geoff Diehl, a former state representative and strong supporter of former President Donald Trump. Although Doughty called Campanale his running mate, the governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately. So if Diehl and Campanale win their respective primaries – and so far Campanale is the only Republican running for lieutenant governor – they would run together in the general election.