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Quentin Palfrey formally launches campaign for Mass. attorney general

Quentin Palfrey shook hands with supporters in this file photo.Jessica Rinaldi/GLOBE STAFF

Quentin Palfrey, the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and a former state prosecutor, said Friday he will run for attorney general and vie to lead an office in which he once handled health care and insurance litigation.

Palfrey, who briefly served last year as acting general counsel at the US Department of Commerce in the Biden Administration, was the first candidate last summer to say publicly he would run to succeed Attorney General Maura Healey if she did not seek reelection.

With Healey running for governor, he now may be the final Democrat to launch a statewide campaign, timing his announcement shortly before party activists begin caucusing to select delegates for their June convention, where they’ll mete out party endorsements.


He enters a Democratic field for Massachusetts’ top law enforcement role that already includes former Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan.

Palfrey, 47, is leaning on his experience as a government attorney at both the state and federal level, saying he’d bring a focus on consumer protection, civil rights, and voting issues.

“We‘d be foolish to look to Washington for the solutions for the really big challenges we face,” Palfrey said. “I think Maura Healey has been a tremendously successful attorney general. She was right to fight back against the Trump administration time and time again. I think the return to sanity in the White House gives an opportunity to refocus our energy right here at home.”

Palfrey, a father of three who grew up in Southborough and now lives in Weston, is making his second run at statewide office. He won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor four years ago, beating comedian Jimmy Tingle and campaigning as Jay Gonzalez’s running mate on a ticket that lost by more than 30 points to Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.


A former assistant attorney general, he served as the agency’s first health care division chief from 2007 to 2009, leading it during the rollout of the state’s universal health care law. He’s been a political appointee in both the Biden and Obama administrations, the latter within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. After the 2018 election, he founded the Voter Protection Corps, which targets voter suppression across the country.

Despite its reputation as a cradle of American democracy, Massachusetts is “not a leader on voting rights at this moment,” he said, noting it has yet to institute changes such as same-day registration. He envisions being an attorney general that can use the position’s bully pulpit to press for change, including legislatively.

Politics has long run through his family, too. 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.

Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.