A heated discussion between the candidates for Suffolk County District Attorney took place in a packed room at Suffolk University Law School on Thursday, May 3.
The event was moderated by Meghan Irons, the social justice reporter at The Boston Globe, and was hosted by Boston Wards 3, 4, and 5 Democratic committees, Suffolk Law School, Boston NAACP, MassVOTE, and the Mass. Dems Latino Caucus.
Candidates Evandro Carvalho, Massachusetts state representative from Dorchester, Attorney Linda Champion, Greg Henning assistant district attorney, Shannon McAuliffe director at Roca, an organization that disrupts the cycle of poverty, and Rachel Rollins, Chief Legal Counsel to the Massachusetts Port Authority, were ready to answer questions during the forum.
“About 77 percent of DA races go un-contested across the U.S.,” said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program and “What a Difference a DA Makes” campaign for the ACLU of MA, to a crowded room. “There is a lack of opportunities for communities to engage but, this is what democracy looks like.”
Hall said that many folks don’t even know what goes on in a DA’s Office and most don’t even know that it is an elected position.
“We are working to make sure the country and residents of Suffolk County are engaged and active,” said Hall.
Candidates were allowed 90 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for rebuttal. Questions ranged from are you too much of an insider or outsider to change things, to how to stop cycle of repeat offenders to how will the candidates make the office more diverse?
Champion said she has three areas she will focus on as District Attorney beside safety: education, housing and jobs.
“When you have all of these things you can have an environment that everyone can feel safe,” she said. “I’m in this race to focus on what is the problem and that’s the lives of our residents.”
Henning said his goal as DA would to make sure that everyone is protected, and to re-connect the community with law enforcement.
“I will not only ensure community policing to keep the streets safe but to help people to not to engage and re-engage with the justice system.”
Rollins said that to make a real difference more people of color and women need to work in the justice system.
“To get fairness, equity and justice you need more diversity in the people that serves those decisions,” said Rollins.
McAuliffe distanced herself from the pack by focusing on her current work at Roca, a non-profit that takes young adults who have a high chance of repeat offense and steers them in a different path by providing job training and other opportunities.
“I’m the only one here that hasn’t worked for a job opening,” said McAuliffe who took on the current DA during the last election. “Reform needs a reformer, and that’s who I am.”
Carvalho said that in order to seek justice you need to look at who is making the decisions. He pointed out that the people making the decisions are largely white and those going in and out of the DA’s office are largely people of color.
“I live in Dorchester and my constituents deal with it every day,” he said. “They are trapped without help every day, and that has to change. As DA I will be sure to change things.”
Current DA Dan Conley announced earlier this year that he will not be seeking re-election. Conley has held the office since February 2002.
This will be the second open candidate forum of the year. The primary for the Suffolk Country District Attorney race will be on Tuesday, September 4. The general election will be Tuesday, November 6.