Palfrey quits AG’s race, endorses Campbell
Cites one-time rival’s ‘lived experience’
IN A MOVE that scrambles the Democratic primary for attorney general one week before the election, Quentin Palfrey announced he is ending his campaign and throwing his support behind Andrea Campbell.
Palfrey, a former assistant attorney general who also held posts in the Obama and Biden administrations, was the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party at its state convention in June, but he struggled to gain traction in the three-way race against Campbell, a former Boston city councilor and mayoral candidate, and labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan.
Palfrey billed himself as the liberal stalwart in the race, and had won endorsements from groups such as Progressive Massachusetts and Our Revolution Massachusetts, the state affiliate of the organization launched by Bernie Sanders. But big-name progressive Democrats lined up with his rivals. Campbell has been endorsed by Sen. Ed Markey, Attorney General Maura Healey, who is vacating the office to run for governor, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley. Liss-Riordan scored big endorsements over the weekend from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
Palfrey’s endorsement of Campbell comes after weeks of criticizing her stance on everything from single-payer health care to safe injection sites. He has also criticized her support for charter schools, and suggested that wealthy donors to a super PAC that supported Campbell’s mayoral run last year could have undue influence on her as attorney general.
“Andrea’s lived experience has shaped her in ways that allow her to connect with families across our Commonwealth,” he said in a statement. “Her devotion to public service is admirable. She will continue the legacy of Maura Healey and be a fighter for justice for all.”
In an interview, Palfrey said Campbell “cares about a lot of the things I care about,” including breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty, implementing criminal justice reform, addressing housing instability, and improving maternal health. “We don’t agree on every issue, but we agree on most issues,” he said. Palfrey said some of his critiques related to campaign finance reflect problems with the broader campaign finance system, not just Campbell’s campaign.
“I do think she has a compassion and empathy and track record of public service in Boston and the Patrick administration that I admire,” Palfrey said.
Campbell was raised in Roxbury by relatives after both parents died when she was young. Her father spent a good chunk of his life in prison. Campbell says her inspiration to seek public office came from wanting to help poor children and those in communities of color avoid the plight of her twin brother, who died while awaiting trial in Department of Correction custody. Campbell’s life has had a very different trajectory. She graduated from Boston Latin School and went on to get her undergraduate degree at Princeton and a law degree from UCLA.
Campbell did legal work representing public school students, served as an assistant counsel to Gov. Deval Patrick, and was elected to three terms on the Boston city council, during which she became the first Black woman to serve as its president.
She would be the first Black woman elected to statewide office if she prevails in the AG’s race.
Campbell welcomed Palfrey’s endorsement, and said they would hold a joint press briefing on Wednesday morning in front of the State House and make campaign appearances together in the days before the September 6 primary.
In the days leading up to Palfrey’s announcement, the race increasingly looked like it was becoming a two-way contest. A MassINC Polling Group survey of likely Democratic primary voters completed a week ago had Campbell with 28 percent and Liss-Riordan at 26 percent, with Palfrey trailing significantly at 10 percent.
Palfrey would not point to any specific factor that led him to drop out but said, “In the last couple of days, it’s been harder and harder to see a path to victory here.” Palfrey said if he could not win, he wanted to take the opportunity express his views about who he felt would be best as the next attorney general.
Liss-Riordan has pegged herself as the candidate best qualified for the office based on years of advocacy for low-wage workers that have seen her win multi-million-dollar settlements from Uber, Lyft, and other companies. She faced criticism from Campbell and Palfrey over the millions of dollars she has earned in fees as part of those class-action suits.
Liss-Riordan is largely self-funding her campaign, vowing to spend up to $12 million on the contest. She has already spent more than $3 million, prompting criticism that she’s buying her way into office. The spending is allowing her to blanket the airwaves with ads, and fill voters’ mailboxes with campaign brochures.
Jordan Meehan, Liss-Riordan’s campaign manager, issued a harsh denunciation of Palfrey’s endorsement, calling it disappointing that he would “would choose petty insider politics over people” and accusing Palfrey of trying to “curry favor with political elites.”
Palfrey said he respects Liss-Riordan’s advocacy for organized labor, but he disagrees with her emphasis on the value of courtroom experience over government experience as a qualification for being the next attorney general.
With thousands of early votes already cast, it’s not clear how Tuesday’s developments will impact the race.
Campbell had been the front-runner in polls throughout the race, but “Liss-Riordan was developing real momentum,” said Michael Goldman, a veteran Democratic strategist, pointing to Saturday’s endorsement from Warren and Wu as the latest sign of that. “This flips it right back,” he said of Palfrey’s endorsement of Campbell.This was Palfrey’s second run for statewide office. He was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor four years, running on a ticket with Jay Gonzalez that was trounced 2-1 by Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Karyn Polito, who rolled easily to reelection.
Palfrey said he plans to continue his work with consumer protection nonprofit organizations. He will remain politically involved, campaigning for Campbell and other Democrats through the general election.