Her campaign calls effort promoting her for potential DA opening 'insulting'
A PROMINENT BLACK real estate developer is seizing on a report that Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins is the leading candidate for US attorney for Massachusetts to try to nudge City Councilor Andrea Campbell out of the Boston mayor’s race.
Richard Taylor, who served as secretary of transportation under Gov. Bill Weld in the 1990s, sent an email on Wednesday to some Campbell supporters suggesting that having her appointed to fill the DA’s post, should Rollins leave, could be a “win/win” — landing Campbell in a prominent new role while easing the path for Acting Mayor Kim Janey to win a full term in office this fall.
Such a scenario “could be a benefit to all,” Taylor wrote.
The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday that Rollins, one of three people under consideration by the Biden administration for the US attorney’s post, is the favorite and is undergoing FBI background checks as the final step before she can be nominated. Gov. Charlie Baker would name a replacement for Rollins if she left, and that person would hold the DA’s post for the remainder of her term, until the 2022 election.
“Andrea will strongly resist this because she has had her eyes set on becoming Mayor,” Taylor wrote of the effort to promote Campbell for DA. “Given that Mayor Janey is doing well, thus far, and given the recent but early poll that placed Andrea surprisingly near the bottom we need to think about options.”
Campbell launched her mayoral campaign last September, when then-Mayor Marty Walsh was widely expected to run for a third term this fall. He resigned last month to become President Biden’s labor secretary, catapulting Janey, a Roxbury district councilor who was the City Council president, into office as acting mayor. Two weeks later she announced that she will run for the seat this fall.
Campbell’s campaign pushed back hard at the idea that she might be interested in an exit plan from the mayor’s race, emphasizing that she was in the race well before it became an alluring contest for an open seat that has now drawn half a dozen candidates.
“Andrea exercised the courage to run for mayor back in September, long before it was an open seat, so for some to imply she, as one of the frontrunners in this race, would be looking at another office now is both misinformed and insulting,” said Katie Prisco-Buxbaum, Campbell’s campaign manager, in a statement. “Andrea has never done anything because it was easy or politically convenient, but because she knows she has the leadership, lived experience, and vision to serve her community and transform our systems to be more equitable and create opportunity for all. She’s running for mayor, and only mayor, to do just that.”
Campbell has built an impressive fundraising operation, with $975,000 on hand at the end of March, the most of any candidate in the mayor’s race.
A graduate of UCLA law school who served as deputy legal counsel to Gov. Deval Patrick, Campbell has never indicated an interest in the DA’s post. The Globe reported that Rollins has advocated for Daniel Mulhern, her first assistant, to be named to the position if she leaves.
An early poll of the mayor’s race, conducted earlier this month by the MassINC Polling Group, had City Councilor Michelle Wu and Janey in a virtual tie, with 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively. City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George had 6 percent, Campbell was at 4 percent, and John Barros and Jon Santiago were at 3 percent. Nearly half of those polled, however — 46 percent — were undecided.
In 2013, when Walsh won office in a mayoral final election that pitted two Irish Catholic sons of Boston against each other, some minority activists lamented the missed opportunity to elect a mayor of color by coalescing behind the leading minority candidate, Charlotte Richie. Eight years later the landscape has changed dramatically, as the city appears poised to elect its first mayor of color and possibly its first woman mayor. All six of the declared candidates identify as minority group members and four of them are women.
Taylor’s email appeared focused on trying to avoid splitting the black vote for mayor. “The other factor is that in order to ‘move up’ Andrea has begun to sharply criticize Mayor Janey, which is what you have to do when you too are fighting for the Black vote,” he wrote. “We all understand that but it does not help our overall goal.”
Janey has enjoyed a surge of national press coverage after taking the mayoral reins as the first black person and first woman in the seat. Her campaign is taking full advantage of the attention and suggesting, amid the talk of the city potentially electing its first mayor of color, that she’s already on the job.
Taylor’s email echoed that theme. He said about Campell, “had Marty not left I would be supporting her. BUT now that we have a Black female in the seat what is the purpose of changing.”
Taylor did not respond to phone or email messages on Thursday.
His missive came amid a parallel effort, being led by former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, to have the city’s black community coalesce behind a single black candidate for mayor.
Wilkerson said in an interview earlier this month on WGBH-TV that the goal is conduct interviews with the three black candidates for mayor — Campbell, Janey, and Barros — by early May and then make a decision about which one to back.
Wilkerson has dubbed the effort WAKANDA II, and is modeling it after a similar exercise, WAKANDA I, that took place in 2018 in the race for Suffolk district attorney that Rollins won. The WAKANDA initiative threw its support behind Rollins, who was one of three black candidates who vied in the five-way Democratic primary.
The other two black candidates sharply criticized the effort. One of them, Linda Champion, said attempts by black leaders to again anoint a favored candidate in the race for mayor are similarly off-putting.
“I think it’s bullying,” said Champion. “You can’t tell people to drop out of a mayor’s race. And if anyone is going to drop out, the acting mayor should take a step back. She had no intention of running for mayor.”