BOSTON — Sparking a so-far dormant race, state prosecutor Maura Healey has announced that she will seek Massachusetts’ top law enforcement job, running as a Democrat to succeed her boss Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Healey, former chief of the business and labor bureau and the public protection and advocacy bureau, resigned from the attorney general’s office last week to pursue her campaign, becoming the first official entrant in the race with her Monday announcement.
A New Hampshire native with family roots in Newburyport, Healey said in an interview that she wants the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office to “lead the nation as a top public law firm.”
Largely unknown to the general public, Healey has never run for public office but brings a legal resume to the race she will work to build off, including her role as the architect of the state’s challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.
“I realize as a first-time candidate I have my work cut out for me, but I’m really looking forward to working really hard and getting out all across the state to talk to people about the role of the attorney general and to hear from them, their concerns and how we together can make Massachusetts a better place,” Healey told the News Service in an interview on Beacon Hill.
Coakley is leaving the attorney general’s office after two terms to run for governor, but Healey won’t be alone in the race for long. Rep. Harold Naughton, a Clinton Democrat who initially had his sights set on the lieutenant governor’s race, recorded a campaign announcement video over the weekend that he is expected to release Thursday morning, according to an adviser.
Healey’s confirmed entry and any move by Naughton is expected to perk up a race that had not drawn a committed candidate until Healey’s announcement. And among the other names bandied about has been that of Gloucester Republican Bruce Tarr, the state Senate Minority Leader.
Tarr, who is an attorney, has said previously he would “not rule anything out” regarding a potential 2014 AG’s run, but he has not given any further indication regarding a bid for Coakley’s seat.
“That’s still where I am — I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point,” Tarr told the Times Tuesday afternoon. “My focus remains on the day-to-day operations at the State House and constituent service — and I learned long ago to never say never.”
Since Coakley announced in early September that she would run for governor, a number of potential high-profile candidates for the office have also taken a pass on the race for various reasons, including Secretary of State William Galvin and Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter, both Democrats.
On the Republican side, former Romney adviser Peter Flaherty has been urged by some in the party to consider the race, and other party officials have suggested former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, who ran for the U.S. Senate this year, would make a good candidate.
Healey grew up in Hampton Falls, N.H., just over the Massachusetts border, and graduated from Harvard College, where she was a government major and co-captain of the women’s basketball team. After college, Healey played two years as the starting point guard for the UBBC Wüstenrot Salzburg professional women’s basketball team in Austria.
She returned to the United States and attended Northeastern University Law School.
Before joining the attorney general’s office in 2007 at the start of Coakley’s first term as chief of the civil rights division, Healey worked as a prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office and for a private Boston law firm — Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr — focused on business and securities litigation.
Healey, 42, lives in Charlestown with her partner, Gabrielle Wolohojian, a Massachusetts Appeals Court judge appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick to the bench in 2008.
Healey’s duties in the attorney general’s office included oversight of 250 staff and the office’s work around consumer protection, fair labor, ratepayer advocacy, environmental protection, health care, insurance and financial services, civil rights, antitrust, Medicaid fraud, not-for-profit organizations and charities, and business, technology and economic development.
Asked what her top three priorities as attorney general would be, Healey listed consumer protection, escalating health care costs and “protecting our environment while addressing our energy costs and energy needs.”
Healey successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex spouses in Massachusetts access to federal marriage benefits, before the U.S. District Court in Boston and a federal appeals court. The Massachusetts case helped build the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately strike down DOMA based on another lawsuit brought against the federal act.
“Maura Healey brings tremendous skills to the table: experience, passion, commitment, an eagerness to listen — not just talk — and, more than anything, an incredible sense of justice. I saw firsthand Maura’s single-minded determination to stand up for what is right as she led Attorney General Coakley’s team and helped us take down DOMA,” said attorney Mary Bonauto, who partnered with Healey on the historic DOMA decision. “Her vision, integrity and hard work have already touched the lives of thousands of people across Massachusetts.”
Healey said the DOMA case was an example of what an attorney general “can do and do well.”
Healey, a 5-foot-4-inch point guard, still plays basketball in an outdoor summer league sponsored by Rep. Kevin Honan. The women’s league plays under the lights behind Harvard Stadium.
While she might be on top of her legal game, Healey said her jump shot could use some work.
“It’s weak, or weaker,” she said. “I think it’s because of my eyes. I either have to go Kurt Rambis and get the goggles or contacts.”