In Suffolk DA’s race, the gloves come off 

IT SEEMED INEVITABLE that it would emerge one of the main fault lines in the race for Suffolk County district attorney: Kevin Hayden, appointed to the post in January by Gov. Charlie Baker to fill the seat vacated by Rachael Rollins, would trumpet his years of experience as a prosecutor and point to the fact that his rival, Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, has no prosecutorial background and only a few years under his belt practicing law in any capacity.

What came as a surprise, however, was that Hayden launched the line of attack in response to Arroyo scoring an endorsement from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. What’s more, after Wu announced her support at a campaign event with Arroyo on Saturday, Hayden’s campaign issued an unusually sharp-edged statement that not only jabbed Arroyo but questioned the judgment of the city’s new mayor as well. 

“If Mayor Wu believes a novice attorney with zero public safety experience should be the top law enforcement officer in the county, that’s her choice. We’re confident voters will disagree,” Hayden campaign spokesman Adam Webster said in a statement. 

On Monday, Wu defended her endorsement during an interview on WBUR’s “Radio Boston.” The talk from Hayden’s campaign about Arroyo’s lack of experience, she said, “is code and signal for upholding the status quo.” 

That status quo, Wu said, “hasn’t been working for everyone, and so we want to see the types of reforms that former district attorney Rollins had put into effect, which have been documented through research and data to bring about outcomes that in fact reduce crime and heal communities and stabilize and reduce recidivism.” 

Wu said Arroyo’s “platform of really reducing crime while healing and providing the resources to build community” is “exactly what we need.” 

Arroyo, who is carving out a path to Hayden’s left in the Democratic primary, has made clear that he aims to continue the reform-minded approach taken by Rollins. That turn away from the tough-on-crime policies of the 1990s was encapsulated most vividly by her default policy of not prosecuting a list of 15 lower-level offenses. 

Arroyo, 34, worked as a public defender for four years before his election to the city council in 2019, but has no background in a DA’s office. Hayden, 53, spent more than a decade in the Suffolk County DA’s office, including helming its Safe Neighborhoods Initiative, which focused on community-based solutions to gang violence. 

Hayden says he has long put into practice some of the reform-focused ideas now gaining attention. Earlier this month, he announced that the DA’s office would direct $400,000 from its asset forfeiture fund to support diversion programs offering treatment, not prosecution, to those suffering from addiction and mental health issues in the troubled Mass. and Cass area of Boston. 

But he and Arroyo differ on some key policies, including the maintenance of a gang database, which Hayden wants to keep and Arroyo says should be dismantled. 

After Wu’s latest comments, Hayden’s campaign doubled down on its questioning of his background – and the mayor’s endorsement. 

“Experience matters,” said Webster. “I doubt Mayor Wu would hire a school superintendent with just four years of experience as an educator or hire a police commissioner with just four years of public safety experience.” 

Boston is in the process of hiring new officials for both of those positions. Webster’s assessment of the kind of credentials Wu will look for in filling the jobs may be on the mark. But the DA’s post is decided by voters, and Arroyo – and Wu – are betting that they’ll be more persuaded by Arroyo’s vows of progressive prosecutorial change than arguments over experience. 

Along with his decidedly progressive platform, Arroyo will be greatly aided by his familiar name in a race against a political unknown. His brother was a Boston city councilor and one-time mayoral candidate, while his father was a city councilor who has gone on to be elected Suffolk register of probate – appearing on the same countywide ballot the DA runs on. 

Arroyo campaign manager Mohammed Missouri, in a statement, called the comments from Hayden’s camp “a desperate attack from an appointed official who is rolling back the progressive reforms that were overwhelmingly voted for when Suffolk County elected Rachael Rollins.” 

While background as a prosecutor has long been considered practically a prerequisite for running for DA, in a sign of how different the times are, Arroyo’s campaign pumped up his work as a public defender in making the case for his election.  

“Councilor Arroyo has represented hundreds of people in his career as a public defender,” Missouri said, “and that experience is what drives his vision for a more just system that reduces crime while addressing rampant disparities.”

 MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Carrot and stick: Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito push hard for their economic development bill, using both a stick (warning lawmakers that time is running short for spending the federal funds) and a carrot (highlighting how much money communities in each lawmaker’s district would receive). Read more.

Blue Line issues: The MBTA extends the shutdown of the Blue Line for track repairs, saying more time is needed to assure safety on the job. The move comes amid reports that laying new track has not gone smoothly.  Read more.

Chen promoted: UMass Lowell promotes its research leader, Julie Chen, to the post of chancellor. Read more

OPINION

Zoning as racial justice: Joshua McCabe of Harborlight Community Partners urges state officials to take a firm stand against communities seeking to sidestep new zoning regulations making it easier to build multi-family housing, arguing that zoning rules are a matter of racial justice. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker expressed concern that legislation passed by the House and Senate allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses could lead to illegal voting by non-citizens with “huge numbers” of provisional ballots being cast in elections. Secretary of State Bill Galvin says it isn’t so. (Boston Globe) Undocumented immigrants in the New Bedford area are eager to learn what will be involved in getting a driver’s license – even though the legislation that would allow it is not yet law. (New Bedford Light

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Four North End restaurant owners filed suit in federal court against Boston Mayor Michelle Wu challenging the constitutionality of a city fee charging restaurants in the neighborhood $7,500 to use public street and sidewalk areas for outdoor dining for the season. (Boston Herald

Opposition seems to be growing to a luxury camping proposal in Becket, as signs sprout in the area calling for no “glamping.” (Berkshire Eagle)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Senate passes legislation giving police protection to members of the Supreme Court and their families. (NPR)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Gas prices in the state hit a new high with the average price of a gallon of gas now $4.39, up 18 cents from last week. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Chicopee High School reports better student performance after it institutes a policy of locking students’ cell phones during the day. (MassLive)

School leaders in Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge urge students to wear masks with Middlesex County now in the CDC’s highest category for COVID-19 transmission. (Boston Globe

TRANSPORTATION

The Federal Transit Administration, in a letter to state officials last month, said it is “extremely concerned” about safety issues on the MBTA and is upping its oversight of the agency following a “pattern of safety incidents” involving the T. (Boston Globe

A woman was fatally struck by an MBTA train in Salem Monday. She has not yet been identified. (Salem News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Sen. Ed Markey holds a congressional subcommittee hearing in Plymouth to discuss issues related to the decommissioning of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and how it will dispose of millions of gallons of water. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A new report from the state’s district attorneys reports an increase in child abuse and neglect cases, even as pandemic-related backlogs mean fewer cases are being resolved by the courts. (Eagle-Tribune)

After years of litigation over its formation, the newly appointed Springfield Police Commission is off to a very slow start. (MassLive)

MEDIA

The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded, with the Washington Post winning in the public service category for a story taking a chronological look at what led to the siege of the Capitol building on January 6 and its aftermath. The New York Times won the most awards.  (New York Times)

Dan Kennedy praises Gannett for making some promising changes in how its newspapers cover crime. (Media Nation)