Andrea Campbell, a Democratic candidate running in the Massachusetts attorney general (AG) race, visited the Island Thursday, and included a stop at The Times in Vineyard Haven to talk about her campaign to address Martha’s Vineyard concerns.
A Roxbury native, Campbell grew up in a difficult environment, ”in public housing, a family torn apart.” However, she “turned that pain into purpose” and became the first person in her family to go to college, graduating from Princeton University and then from UCLA Law School. Campbell practiced law in various capacities after graduating, and later made history in 2018 by becoming the first Black woman to be elected Boston City Council president. She also had an unsuccessful run during the 2021 Boston mayoral elections.
“I know we live in the best state in the country because I’m living proof of that,” Campbell said. “We know what Massachusetts is capable of. I also live in reality, and know that communities of color, indigenous populations, poor rural communities, which are predominantly with white residents, remind me that we have work to do, and these disparities and inequities won’t go away overnight.”
Massachusetts is a state that has the potential to lead the country by example, one method of which would be by “pushing the envelope” of what the Attorney General’s office can do. “I see nothing but the possibilities,” Campbell said.
Campbell told The Times she came to Martha’s Vineyard to learn more about issues the Island faces and listen to the residents.
“I want folks to know I am a leader that is always intentional about getting out to communities, especially those communities that feel left out and left behind,” Campbell said. “I think the Island is doing remarkable work to address a whole host of issues — housing, climate, worker shortage, healthcare, mental health, and the only way you know what is actually happening is if you show up.”
Among the various issues Campbell underscored, from affordable housing to progressing economic opportunities, she told The Times the top priority would be to fight public and corporate corruption if elected. In particular, Campbell has heard from people while on the campaign trail that they want an attorney general who will take on public corruption.
“I’ve been clear that’s exactly the issues I would definitely take on,” Campbell said. She also told The Times she wants to push the attorney general’s office to use its skills and resources to truly represent and deliver “real results” on issues the average constituent would worry about, such as healthcare or wage theft.
When asked how she would tackle the protection corrupt police officers might receive from police unions, Campbell said the attorney general’s office is uniquely positioned to address public corruption.
“I have a track record of doing that in different contexts. When I was on the city council in Boston, we now have the office of police accountability and transparency, body cameras, all accountability tools to ensure that if something goes wrong, people truly can seek out justice and accountability,” Campbell said. “We can do that at the statewide level. I actually think folks want the AG to make these conversations statewide so you don’t have just have Boston, for example, that has these tools where neighboring communities and other towns don’t have access, if something goes terribly wrong.”
Campbell said while the attorney general’s office already does this type of work, there is an “opportunity to really take on public corruption in a more aggressive manner.”
“No one should be above the law,” Campbell told the Times. “We have work to do.”
Campbell also plans to investigate the state’s justice system if elected. This issue hits her at a personal level, since her twin brother, Andre, died 10 years ago while in the custody of the state’s Department of Corrections.
“Criminal legal reform, juvenile justice, public corruption, they’re all connected. They’re all examples of public corruption. When something goes wrong that is not in compliance with our law, that is in violation of the spirit of our laws and stands in the way of justice, an AG has a responsibility to stand up,” Campbell said.
Campbell was asked about the attorney general’s role in enforcing the Open Meeting Law.
“I firmly believe, even as a previously elected, that government works best when the institutions are transparent and accountable to the public. What I’ve learned and heard over the course of the race is not only do you push for those values through Open Meeting Law compliance but many towns, especially the smaller towns, need greater training, greater support, maybe even greater responsiveness to be able to comply,” Campbell said. She believes the attorney general’s office has the ability to provide the education and support local elected officials need to comply with the state’s Open Meeting law. One idea Campbell mentioned was the establishment of a local advisory group to “make it easier for the AG’s office to have a greater presence” and better support towns with fewer resources.
“While the AG’s office has significant talent and resources, it is limited in many aspects in terms of human capital, and I think if you can establish an advisory board that’s statewide, specifically with Open Meeting Laws, there’re many folks who want to step up to do just that,” Campbell said.
Fighting climate change and protecting the environment was another part of Campbell’s message. One of the top concerns for the Island was Holtec International’s plans to dump radioactive water from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, which decommissioned in 2019, into Cape Cod Bay. The Provincetown Independent reported that these plans have been put on hold, and Holtec is now testing its water, although it remains uncertain whether Holtec has given up on its initial dumping plans. During the town elections this spring, Islanders overwhelmingly voted to ask Holtec not to dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay. Current Attorney General Maura Healey aggressively fought against the dumping, and Campbell said she would continue this fight if elected. Campbell said she has discussed Pilgrim with Healey, and has used it as “an example to stress in other communities” that an attorney general needs to take on the local issues alongside national ones affecting residents.
“An AG should show up nationally, take on the big companies denying climate change that are standing in the way of us becoming more of a clean energy community and a clean energy economy,” Campbell said. “But also, the AG’s office has to focus on those local projects that threaten the livelihoods, the health of the constituents.”
The attorney general race has more candidates running for the seat than just Campbell. Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan and deputy general counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce Quentin Palfrey are the fellow Democratic candidates, and attorney Jay McMahon is running as the sole Republican. Campbell said there are “three major distinctions” between her and the other candidates. These are her “more comprehensive” legal background compared with the others, her legislative experience, and her life experience.
“I’m going to keep showing up to get our message out. I’m happy to be on the Island. I will be back, and am excited to get out there and crisscross the state to earn the support of folks in this race,” Campbell said.