Your Guide to the Suffolk County District Attorney Race
Empowering our communities to engage in civic life (both political and nonpolitical) is an important part of YWCA’s commitment to eliminating racism and empowering women. As part of the MA Coalition for Juvenile Justice Reform, YW Boston advocated for the passage of the Criminal Justice Reform Act in April 2018. One way to ensure the implementation of this law is to elect a District Attorney that will prioritize progressive reform for racial and economic justice. However, we found it challenging to find a information on the candidates and the electoral process in a digestible way. YW Boston offers this guide with more targeted information and priority issues for the Suffolk County District Attorney race.
(As a 501(c)3 organization, YW Boston is non-partisan, and does not endorse candidates. This guide is a public service and is not intended to be an endorsement of any candidate or political party.)
Suffolk County District Attorney Election
There is a District Attorney (“DA”) race happening for Suffolk County (Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop) that is vitally important to the future of criminal justice in Massachusetts. Daniel F. Conley, long-term district attorney for Suffolk County is stepping down. Conley, 59, a Democrat, was appointed in February 2002 by then-acting governor Jane M. Swift to fill the unexpired term of Ralph Martin, who resigned to join the private sector. He was elected to a full four-year term later that year and re-elected without opposition for three more terms. Read more on his tenure here.
The Suffolk DA office of over three hundred employees is responsible for the prosecution of between 40,000 to 50,000 criminal cases every year in the state’s most densely populated county. District attorneys are elected to four-year terms. They decide what crimes to focus on prosecuting, what charges are brought, how much bail to request, and what types of sentences to pursue. The DA sets the tone and the agenda for law enforcement, prosecutions and criminal justice in this city that often has a large impact on the state.
Who are the candidates?
Evandro Carvalho (D): Massachusetts State Representative (D – 5th Suffolk); Former Assistant District Attorney, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Linda Champion (D): Assistant General Counsel, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Former Assistant District Attorney, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Greg Henning (D): Assistant District Attorney, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Michael Maloney (I): Maloney Law
Shannon McAuliffe (D): Former Director, Roca, Inc.; Former Trial Attorney, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Rachael Rollins (D):Former Chief Legal Counsel, Massachusetts Port Authority; Former General Counsel, MBTA and MassDOT; Former Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
Vote in the Democratic state primary on September 4th!
September 4, 2018 – Registration deadline: August 15, 2018
Vote in the general election November 6th!
November 6, 2018 – Registration deadline: October 17, 2018
Register to vote here.
Vote through an absentee ballot here.
If you are already registered, find your polling place and ballot here.
Why is this election important?
1. Power: Suffolk County residents have not had a truly open DA election—one without either an elected or appointed incumbent on the ballot—since 1869. District attorneys are the most powerful people in the criminal legal system. They decide who gets charged with a crime – and determine how most criminal cases are resolved. This means these elected officials have tremendous impact on people’s lives and our communities. Voter turnout is an important factor in ensuring that those elected into office hear and meet the needs of people of color and women. Every vote truly does count.
2. Justice: The “tough on crime” policies of the last four decades—including mandatory minimum sentences, harsh and racially disparate penalties for minor drug offenses and nonviolent offenses, and the explosion in life sentences without parole, led to mass incarceration in the U.S. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners. If current trends continue, one of every three black American men born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime. Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent. Massachusetts prisons are disproportionately filled with poor people, young men of color, and people struggling with mental health and substance abuse. According to a poll released in July of 2017, 84% of voters believe that Massachusetts should change the criminal legal system so that people are not treated differently based on their race. That same poll revealed that 4 in 10 voters don’t know that the DA is an elected official.
3. Reform: The 2018 election comes after a legislative overhaul of the criminal justice system aiming to scale back the tough-on-crime laws of the ‘80s and ‘90s that disproportionately impacted communities of color. The new Criminal Justice Reform Act, signed by Governor Charlie Baker in April, will divert more people to treatment and programming, eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealing, restructure bail, make solitary confinement more humane and make it easier to seal criminal records, among other changes. The newly elected DA will have full discretion to decide how to effectively manage these new goals set by the law, and enhance, enforce, or delay the changes. It is a critical time for criminal justice reform in our state and this election will have consequences for the next step in the future of Massachusetts. Read a summary of the Criminal Justice Reform Act here.
Where do the candidates stand?
Here are three questionnaires a number of the candidates completed:
1. The Justice for Massachusetts Coalition invited all five Suffolk DA candidates to fill out their questionnaire. Assistant District Attorney Greg Henning opted not to fill out the questionnaire. We were not able to find a reponse for Independent candidate, Mike Maloney.
2. Latina Circle: Criminal Justice Reform Suffolk County with DA Candidates. We were not able to find a reponse for Independent candidate, Mike Maloney.
3. The Suffolk County District Attorney Youth Justice Voter Guide
In the News
- At unusual forum, candidates for DA seek support of inmates, Boston Globe
- Bolling: DA candidates show understanding of inmates’ needs, Boston Herald
- Boston inmates, prosecutor hopefuls talk policy, Daily Hampshire Gazette
- NFL Players Move Their Protests Off The Field, Grilling DA Candidates, NPR
- Patriots star power fuels DA debate, Commonwealth Magazine
- Where do candidates for district attorney stand on the issues?, ACLU MA
- Suffolk County District Attorney’s Race Takes Off, WBUR
- DA Forum Reveals Sunlight Between [sic] Candidates, Commonwealth Magazine
- Will A Pack Of Criminal Justice ‘Reform’ Candidates Lead To The Election Of A ‘Conservative’ Suffolk County DA?, WGBH
- Watch: Suffolk County District Attorney Forum, Suffolk County House of Correction
- Watch: Suffolk County District Attorney Forum, JP Progressives and NAACP Boston Branch
- Watch: Suffolk County DA Candidate Debate, ACLU MA
- Vote on September 4th! Vote on November 6th! Register to vote here. Vote through an absentee ballot here. If you are already registered, find your polling place and ballot here.
ACLU MA Volunteer Canvass & Phonebanking: What a Difference A DA Makes is a public education campaign to educate voters about the power of district attorneys. With the September 4th primary on the horizon, we’re talking with voters at the door and over the phone about the impact DAs have in our communities. It’s time to use our voices, and our vote, to make our criminal legal system fairer for everyone. Sign up here!
Check out the ACLU MA Suffolk County DA Voter Guide
Support YWCA USA’s Get Out the Vote Initiative
Check out more voting/candidate guides at MassVOTE
Upcoming Forums and Events
August 9, 2018 5:00-8:00pm on 26 West Street (SEIU 32BJ). I Have A Future (IHAF) is hosting a youth-led District Attorney Candidates forum. Youth do not feel like they are being highlighted during this race and we want to do the work to change that. In Suffolk County, we need to become clear around what the incoming DA will be accountable to on behalf of young people after this race comes to an end.
August 14, 2018 6:00-7:30pm Pollard Memorial Library, Community Meeting Room 401 Merrimack St. Lowell, MA. Hear from Rahsaan Hall, ACLU of Massachusetts’ Racial Justice Program Director and campaign manager for the What a Difference a DA Makes campaign, about the important role district attorneys play in determining the fairness and effectiveness of our criminal legal system and how, as voters, we can hold them accountable.