Former Boston city councilor and mayoral contender Andrea Campbell kicked off her campaign for Massachusetts attorney general Wednesday, surrounded by supporters in Dorchester’s Codman Square Park.
“I’ve dedicated my entire life to fighting for greater opportunity and equity, and that’s exactly what I’ll do as the next attorney general of Massachusetts,” Campbell told the crowd. “Because the attorney general is not just the top chief law enforcement officer in the state. The attorney general must be an advocate for fundamental change and progress.”
Campbell, 39, who lives in Mattapan, is running to succeed Maura Healey, who recently announced her candidacy for governor. Campbell will face labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who declared her candidacy last week.
A three-term city councilor, Campbell made a bold entry into politics in 2015, challenging and beating longtime incumbent Charles Yancey. In her second term, she was unanimously elected council president, becoming the first Black woman to hold the position. In 2020, she launched a bid for mayor before it was clear that incumbent Martin J. Walsh would leave to become US labor secretary. But she fell short in the preliminary election, finishing third behind fellow City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu, the eventual victor.
Essaibi George appeared at Campbell’s announcement, along with state Senator Lydia Edwards, Councilor Brian Worrell, former state representative Dan Cullinane, and former mayoral candidate Bill Walczak.
“She’s a star,” Walczak said. “She’s a future star and a current star.”
At the kickoff event, Campbell focused on her compelling biography. Campbell was a baby when her mother was killed in a car accident; she and her twin brother moved among relatives and foster care until her father was released from prison when they were 8. In 2012, her twin brother died as a pretrial detainee in state custody. Her older brother has been charged as a serial rapist, accused of posing as an Uber driver to target nine women leaving bars in downtown Boston.
While poverty and incarceration shaped her family history, Campbell excelled academically, graduating from Boston Latin School, Princeton University, and UCLA Law School.
“School absolutely saved my life,” she told the crowd. She noted she pursued her law degree after being tasked with responding to criminal charges against her brothers. “I went to law school so that I did not feel ill equipped to deal with lawyers.”
Campbell has not worked as a prosecutor but began her career as a legal services attorney for the EdLaw project, defending the rights of children, particularly those with disabilities. She later worked as an employment attorney at Proskauer LLP, as general counsel of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and as deputy legal counsel to former governor Deval Patrick.
Campbell struck some of the same themes featured in her mayoral campaign, promising to use the power of the office to address societal problems that disproportionately affect people of color.
“Government played a role in creating these inequities. So we absolutely can ensure that government addresses them and eradicates them,” Campbell said. “And let me tell you, it’s about time.”
A recent survey of 310 likely Democratic voters by the Mass INC Polling Group suggested Campbell would lead the potential field with 31 percent support. Liss-Riordan followed at 3 percent and Quentin Palfrey, who is exploring a run for attorney general, at 2 percent. More than half of those surveyed did not say whom they would choose.
Scott Ferson, a political consultant who is not involved in the race, said the survey reflects the name recognition Campbell built in her bid for mayor, which also demonstrated her fundraising prowess. This race could prove a better fit for her candidacy, he suggested.
“People probably couldn’t name the functions of an AG,” Ferson said. “People vote on who you are.”
“Good favorability, high name recognition, and personal narrative in a statewide race is really, really important,” he said. “And she has a very compelling story.”
Campbell said she decided to run for attorney general after receiving encouragement from people in the office and her supporters and considering the impact she could have as the state’s top prosecutor. During the mayoral race, a rival’s supporters encouraged her to drop out and aim to become the Suffolk district attorney.
“God closes one door and opens another,” Campbell said. “I’m not going to dwell on the past.”