PITTSFIELD -- Maura Healey, a candidate for Massachusetts attorney general, stresses the experience she gained leading several divisions of that office for more than seven years.
Healey, 43, is running against former state Sen. Warren Tolman of Watertown in the Sept. 9 primary for the Democratic nomination. The winner is expected to face Republican John Miller of Winchester in the Nov. 4 election.
"I believe I am the person with the experience to use the power of the attorney general's office to make a difference in people's lives," Healey said during a visit to The Eagle newsroom. "I know what that office can do for people."
The next attorney general will succeed Martha Coakley, who is stepping down to run for governor. Healey left her job overseeing the office's Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau last fall after deciding to mount a campaign to replace her boss.
Healey said direct, recent experience in a supervisory position that was involved in civil rights, environmental and consumer protection and other issues separates from her opponents.
Referring to Tolman, Healey disputed the contention his knowledge of state government and his contacts will help him be more effective as attorney general. Tolman has run for both lieutenant governor and governor, in 1998 and 2002, and was in the state House and later the Senate during the 1990s.
"I fundamentally disagree," Healey said.
She noted that she has "good working relationships with members of the Legislature," including Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, the Senate majority leader, both of whom she said are supporting her in the race.
In addition, Healey said, "I don't come out of Beacon Hill; I am not part of that establishment." She said this will ensure she can "act independently on behalf of the public and on behalf of the state that is very important in the attorney general's office."
Healey first led the civil rights division within the AG's Consumer Protection and Advocacy Bureau, and eventually led the entire bureau, which addresses anti-trust, health care, insurance and finance and environmental issues as well.
She also led the Business and Labor Bureau for a time before launching her campaign to replace Coakley -- in her first bid for elected office.
Healey graduated from Harvard College in 1992 and then spent two years as a starting point guard for a women's professional basketball team in Austria. She then obtained her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in 1998. She now lives in Boston with her partner.
Addressing a number of issues, Healey said:
n She will vote in favor of repealing the 2011 legislation allowing casino gambling in the state. She said she has supported the bid to place the issue before the voters as a proper use of the referendum in challenging acts of the Legislature, and she bases her opposition to the effects of gaming on criminal activity, small businesses, and on gamblers who might go into debt and become victims of predatory lending practices. There also is evidence of "saturation" of the casino market in the Northeast, Healey said, with some laying off workers.
If the repeal referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot fails, she added, she believes she would be the best candidate to monitor and help address the negative effects of gaming in the state. The issue provides "a fundamental difference between me and my opponent," Healey said. Tolman has opposed repealing the casino law.
n Wants more transparency relative to the Tennessee Gas Line Co. proposal for a new line from upstate New York across Massachusetts to Dracut. Healey said: "I am against it at the moment. We need to get more information [on the route and the project goals]."
She said the AG's office would have a role in the federal permitting process in representing natural gas ratepayers in the state and in protecting environmentally sensitive areas the pipeline might pass through.
n She would open a regional office of the attorney general's office in Berkshire County, saying she had heard that some residents find it difficult to travel to the nearest AG office site in Springfield.
n Sees a need for a comprehensive approach to a number of often-related issues, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, drug addiction and related crime, and gun violence. Healey said she would propose or advocate for legislative reforms, take legal action when necessary and, when possible, channel some of the penalties or legal fees recovered through lawsuits to programs addressing those issues.
Among specific proposals, Healey said she would encourage greater funding for shelters and housing for victims of domestic violence, along with programs for survivor and offender counseling, training programs for court and law enforcement personnel, and victims' services.
She advocated "more education and outreach," including among high school students, on sexual assault issues, similar to past efforts to inform young people about the dangers of drug use. Healey said she wants to ensure students "are empowered" with information on how to resist sexual assault and "understand what is right and what is wrong."
On college campuses, she said she would "make sure the message is clear that if there is an allegation of sex assault those have to be handled by the police and law enforcement," and ensure that reporting policies, staff training and victim services are in place. Healey added that colleges have already begun to respond to criticism that some sexual assault complaints were improperly handled by college officials and/or diverted from the criminal justice system.
Concerning drug addition, she advocates a "pharmacy lock-in program," like those other states have adopted, to channel prescriptions for addictive pain medication to one pharmacy per patient, providing more control over "doctor shopping" or physicians who improperly over-prescribe those medications. Healey also would support more funding for short- and long-term drug addiction treatment and reform of the corrections system to divert some drug abusers now incarcerated into treatment programs.
She said she would continue to stress current AG programs that use lawsuit settlement funds to restructure mortgages to help "keep people in their homes," and to rehabilitate housing that has been abandoned by landlords and requires work to bring the units back up to code.
On gun control, Healey said her prime focus would be on controlling gun violence, including that related to domestic abuse and suicide. She said that requires ensuring that mental health services are available to head off preventable incidents of gun violence and "make it comfortable for families to come forward to get the services they need."
She would also encourage counseling for at-risk youth to "help break the cycle of gun violence." And she would propose legislation requiring "smart gun" technology that can thwart the use of firearms by unauthorized persons, such as children or gun thieves.
Healey said she has had a "great response" around the state to her candidacy. Although a first-time candidate, she said, she finished a close second to the much better known Tolman in balloting at the Democratic State Convention in June.
"I feel a ton of energy and enthusiasm and momentum," she said. "I am thankful and humbled."
She said that in fund-raising, her campaign has raised "just shy of raising a million dollars, which might record first-time down-ballot candidate."
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