‘Justice Begins With Rachael’: Underdog Reformer Pulls Off District Attorney Victory In Massachusetts Primary

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Written by Ann Brown

Rachael Rollins is shaking up the political scene in Boston, winning the Democratic primary in Massachusetts earlier this week as an underdog. She defeated the leading establishment candidate by a 16-point margin.

She’ll face an independent candidate in November and if elected Rollins will be the first woman of color to serve as Suffolk County’s district attorney.

“I am honored and humbled,” said the former prosecutor in a press statement. She is the first person of color to be general counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

“But I also need to say ― for all of us ― that this is earned. As a 47-year old Black Woman, I have earned this. We have earned this. This is the time for us to claim our power and make good on our promises to make true criminal justice reform for all of the people in Suffolk County.”

Rachael Rollins
Chante Graham, left, of Fall River, Mass., an inmate at Suffolk County House of Correction at South Bay, presents a question to six candidates for Suffolk County District Attorney, right, during a forum at the jail, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Boston. The six candidates for Suffolk County District Attorney, are seated beginning second from left, Evandro Carvalho, Rachael Rollins, Greg Henning, Shannon McAuliffe, Michael Maloney, and Linda Champion. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Rollins will face independent candidate Michael Maloney, who has worked as a defense attorney, in the November general election.

“Rollins ran under a progressive vision for the top prosecutor’s office, supporting an end to cash bail for low-level offenses, increasing the use of alternatives to incarceration, such as rehabilitation and restorative justice programs, and repealing the use of mandatory minimum sentences,” the Huffington Post reported.

Rollins’ primary win points to a change coming in the political and justice arenas.

“The election of Rachael Rollins was another litmus for criminal justice reform,” said Shaun King, co-founder of political action committee Real Justice, which endorses reform-minded candidates for local prosecutor, including Rollins. “Her win means that everyone needs to start paying attention to these critical races. Justice and good governance begin at the community level, and in this case, justice begins with Rachael Rollins.”

This race already has historic connections. “Rollins’ victory is also significant in that she is a woman of color running for district attorney. Ninety-five percent of elected prosecutors are white, and 79 percent are male. Only 1 percent of prosecutors in the U.S. are women of color,” HuffPo reported.

Rollins’ run has attracted a broad range of constituents.

“Rachael built a truly impressive coalition of voters that cut across age, race, and geographies,” said Julia Barnes, a senior adviser to Real Justice PAC, one of the organizations that advised Rollins, in an interview in The Intercept. “She pulled impressive margins in South Boston, West Roxbury and Hyde Park. Her margin was bolstered everywhere.”