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Quentin Palfrey, former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, exploring a bid for Mass. attorney general

Quentin Palfrey, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, shook hands with a voter during the campaign.Jessica Rinaldi/GLOBE STAFF

Quentin Palfrey, Massachusetts Democrats’ 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor and an attorney who has served in the Biden administration, is forming an exploratory committee for a 2022 attorney general bid, he said Monday.

Palfrey, who worked until recently as acting general counsel at the US Department of Commerce, outlined a broad view of the attorney general’s portfolio and said he would use the post to shape conversations on criminal justice and other issues.

“We’re in an extraordinary time,” said Palfrey, 47, citing an “assault on our values” during four years of the Donald Trump presidency. “I have been really committed to being part of the solution to some of the challenges that we’re facing, and there are some great opportunities that we’ve had on the federal level to try to heal some of the crisis that we faced. But I think that for the leadership that we need on the issues that affect ordinary people, a lot of that needs to come from the states.”

In 2018, Palfrey and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez lost to Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, collecting just 33 percent of the vote to the Republican slate’s 67 percent. Palfrey said he would take the lessons of that campaign, traveling the state and building up an organization of supporters, and apply them by focusing on issues specific to the attorney general’s office.


Palfrey said he will not seek the office if Attorney General Maura Healey runs for reelection. Healey, who with a national reputation and $3.1 million in her campaign account is viewed as a potential candidate for governor, has said she is considering her options for next year and will “know more by the fall.”

A political appointee in both the Biden and Obama administrations, Palfrey has served in the Commerce Department and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. A former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, he served as the agency’s first health care division chief from 2005 to 2009, leading it during the rollout of the state’s universal health care law. Palfrey also has led nonprofits, including Voter Protection Corps, which targets voter suppression across the country, and the International Digital Accountability Council, which is focused on consumer protection.


Palfrey grew up in Southborough and attended Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School. Politics runs in his family; he is a great-great-grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, and his mother, Dr. Judith S. Palfrey, led Let’s Move, Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative.

As the Democratic field for governor begins to shape up, Palfrey is the first to publicly state his interest in running for attorney general. The Globe has reported that a few other Democratic politicians — Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, state Senator Eric P. Lesser, and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan — have been named as potential candidates.

Emma Platoff can be reached at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her @emmaplatoff.