This week’s issue of the Dig will be one of the least popular of all 52 mags we drop in 2018. Knowing what I know from 15 years of trying to write sugar for this town to help the medicine go down, I have little doubt that many of our frequent readers will see the word “election” and look the other way, perhaps pick up the Improper Bostonian this time instead.
In some ways I don’t blame them. Politicians suck, they rarely pay attention to constituents, and often even when they do listen they act for corporations and self-preservation, not the people.
At the same time, apathy will get us nowhere slowly. Take it from me, a consummate hater of almost all elected and authority figures who nonetheless spends months every year cranking out news that (hopefully) spurs people to head to the polls. This column is no exception.
Luckily for voters who reside in Suffolk County—Boston proper, Winthrop, Chelsea, and Revere—there’s a rare chance to make a significant impact in the primary election next week. If you are dismayed with the way that cops are coddled by prosecutors who they ought to and have power to keep honest, or if you think the office of a district attorney should be more corrective than punitive, then you can help put a decent person in the Suffolk DA’s chair for a change.
There are several choices that would seemingly bring overdue reform to this notorious arena. State Rep. Evandro Carvalho, who once served as an ADA in West Roxbury District Court, has taken prudent positions on criminal justice through the race; it’s unclear if he has the stamina to simultaneously affect change at the institutional level while handling cops who will eschew such measures, but I wouldn’t protest if he prevailed in next Tuesday’s primary. The same goes for Shannon McAuliffe, the lone experienced public defender in play, and for former prosecutor Linda Champion, who absolutely packs progressive bona fides but in my mind hasn’t entirely distanced herself enough from the operation of outgoing DA Dan Conley.
Relatively speaking, all the candidates noted above excite me and could rewire the law enforcement apparatus around here. However, in speaking with some trusted local activists and criminal justice observers who I truly respect, and in watching her debate performances, I have an especially positive impression of Rachael Rollins, another Democratic hopeful—namely, she’s all kinds of bold and unique in her views on everything from sentencing to youth crimes and accountability. A former federal prosecutor who has also worked as legal counsel for the MBTA and MassDot, Rollins could help catalyze the most seismic slide left in Mass politics since… like… ever?
Whatever you do in the booth, if you want to help steer Suffolk County clear of yet another reign in which people of color are presumed to be guilty and cops are assumed to be just, then by all means do not pull for candidate Greg Henning. It’s not just that he is endorsed by DA Conley and talk radio race-baiter Howie Carr (plus Carr’s stain of an editorial page at the Boston Herald). Beyond his unfortunate allies, Henning wears his anti-reform reputation as a shameless badge licker on his lapel and is the preferred choice of law enforcement donors by a long shot.
There is no endorsement here. I could never totally support a candidate or idea that suggests that there’s a single shred of the American judicial system worth salvaging. Nevertheless, I’m not so cynical that I would cut my vote to spite my fate, at least not when it comes to issues that impact the lives of people I know, love, and interact with.
That glimmer of a damn may turn out to be foolish. The law-and-order Henning, after all, may benefit from four progressives cancelling each other out, in which case he will face only an independent, defense attorney Mike Maloney, in the November general election.
On the other hand, there have been miracles unfolding at the ballot box across the country since President Trump forced himself into a world about which he knew less than a blindfolded hump double plugging a glory hole.
I guess it’s just nice to think that one of these election seasons, one of those miracles may unfold right here in the bluest state.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF