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Briefings: Quentin Quits & AG Race Becomes a One-on-One Slugfest…

UPDATED 11:45PM 9/1/22: To include additional reaction to Palfrey leaving the AG race.

Mass AG BC Debate Palfrey Campbell Liss-Riordan

Palfrey: I’m going to let you two ladies sort this AG thing out… (still via YouTube/BC Law)

The race for Massachusetts Attorney General has taken a series of sharp turns this past week, culminating in one candidate dropping out and endorsing a now-former rival. Quentin Palfrey, the former top lawyer at the Commerce Department and his party’s 2018 nominee to lieutenant governor, exited the race Tuesday. On his way out, he endorsed former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell.

His move came days after US Senator Elizabeth Warren, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and former acting mayor of Boston Kim Janey endorsed labor Shannon Liss-Riordan. Their backing was the latest sign of an increasingly pointed race for the state’s chief law enforcement officer. Still, Palfrey’s endorsement came after months of pummeling Campbell for her association with a SuperPAC that supported her in her bid for mayor last year.

“I am pleased to endorse Andrea today to be our next Attorney General. Andrea’s lived experience has shaped her in ways that allow her to connect with families across our Commonwealth,” said Palfrey in a statement, suspending his campaign. Campbell’s “devotion to public service is admirable. She will continue the legacy of Maura Healey and be a fighter for justice for all.”

Palfrey did not directly address his reversal on Campbell. However, his release noted that she has earned the backing of US Senator Ed Markey, US Reps Katherine Clark and Ayanna Pressley, all living persons who have been Massachusetts AG including the incumbent, Maura Healey.

Andrea Campbell

Campbell stumping in Noho. (WMP&I)

“Maura Healey knows better than anyone what it takes to succeed in the Attorney General’s office,” Palfrey’s statement continued.  “As a former Assistant Attorney General, I am confident that Andrea has the experience to succeed on day one. I know she will be an AG who shows up, listens to our community, and does everything she can to protect and advocate for the people of Massachusetts.”

Th scant polling of down ballot races has shown undecided firmly in the lead for some of the arcane statewide offices that will appear on Democrats’ primary ballot on September 6. However, the race for attorney general has begun to break away from that pattern.

Likely thanks to her mayoral bid and tenure as a city councilor, Campbell had enjoyed leads in the race. Liss-Riordan’s steady flow of self-funding, however, has allowed her to blanket the airwaves. All four media markets that touch Massachusetts have seen a gush of ads. Liss-Riordan’s subsequent polling strength encouraged Warren, Wu and Janey—the latter two also being Council colleagues and mayoral rivals to Campbell.

Shortly after Palfrey’s statement went out, Campbell announced a joint event with him in Boston Wednesday. On the State House steps, he formally endorsed her.

Meanwhile, Liss-Riordan’s campaign manager, Jordan Meehan, torched Palfrey’s endorsement

“It’s disappointing that Quentin Palfrey would choose petty insider politics over people,” he said in a statement. “His campaign claimed to value putting experience to work for Massachusetts and fighting for progressive policies. It’s a shame he’s willing to throw that away to curry favor with political elites.”

Several former Palfrey allies did not conceal their disappointment.

Those in the trans community took the endorsement especially hard. Many trans people and their allies view Campbell with suspicion and saw backing her as a betrayal. Palfrey has pushed back on the strident criticism of his endorsement, especially from Liss-Riordan’s campaign. That appeal did not impress Halley Kelly, a trans activist from Springfield.

“If he wants to talk about civility politics, then he can start by having the civility to tell the trans people who were on his campaign what is more important to him than trans lives instead of ignoring our questions,” Kelly said.

Only Palfrey’s endorsement surprised. That he would drop out was not entirely a shock. Although, Massachusetts Democrats did endorse him at their convention in June, he had long trailed in fundraising. Palfrey was the only candidate running for AG to use Massachusetts’s public campaign finance system.

As a result, Campbell and Liss-Riordan have been increasingly focused on each other. Indeed, to answer Liss-Riordan’s self-funding—gleaned from years of representing of successful class action litigation on behalf of workers—Campbell has been touted her “people-powered” campaign.

In recent appearances and in debates, she has noted that she has raised the most money among from donors. The pitch serves to both hit Liss-Riordan and argue that she has more grassroots support.