Maura Healey, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, doesn’t come across like a political novice. That’s because her extensive legal experience as an assistant attorney general and personal confidence make it easy to imagine her as a strong enforcer of state laws and a dedicated protector of the public’s interest from day one. The Globe endorses Healey for the job of the state’s top law enforcement official.
The attorney general has a big portfolio. The holder of the office not only defends the state and its employees against civil lawsuits but initiates legal actions and advocates on behalf of Massachusetts residents in the areas of civil rights, public corruption, consumer protection, utility rates, and criminal justice reform. During her seven years in the attorney general’s office, Healey gained valuable experience serving as head of the civil rights, public protection, and business and labor divisions.
Healey is not afraid to lead on civil rights issues. She directed successful efforts to challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. She showed similar passion while bringing the nation’s first civil rights case by a state against subprime mortgage lenders who overcharged minority borrowers.
Her Republican opponent in the Nov. 4 final election — Winchester attorney John Miller — says he would focus more on using the legal capabilities of the office to make state government work better. He scored points during a recent debate at Stonehill College, where he made a cogent case as to why the expansion deal between the incumbent attorney general Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare should not be approved. But the office functions best when the attorney general takes a more aggressive approach, and Healey could be expected to serve in the tradition of Coakley, who led multistate efforts seeking to force federal officials to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Healey honed her positions on how best to reduce gun violence and fight the surge of sexual assaults on college campuses during a tough Democratic primary against former state legislator Warren Tolman. She showed good judgment throughout the primary, with one misstep: She accepted a large campaign contribution from the powerful but sometimes problematic Teamsters Local 25, which she later returned.
Miller has gone after the state attorney general — and Healey by association — for her decision to fight a 2010 class action suit brought by the child welfare group Children’s Rights. Miller said he would have settled the case. But it is not at all clear that such a settlement would be in the longterm interest of 8,000 foster children entrusted to state care. It would, however, have put high legal fees in the pocket of the advocacy group that brought the suit. That’s where Healey’s experience shows.