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Stumping in Pittsfield, Democratic Mass. AG candidate Liss-Riordan talks abortion access, campaign self-funding

Shannon Liss-Riordan.
Josh Landes
Shannon Liss-Riordan.

Shannon Liss-Riordan is running for attorney general in the September 6th Massachusetts Democratic primary. The attorney made her name with workers’ rights lawsuits against corporate giants like Uber, Amazon, and FedEx, as well as an unsuccessful bid against Senator Ed Markey in the 2020 Democratic primary. Liss-Riordan faces fellow Democrats Andrea Campbell and Quentin Palfrey in the contest to replace Maura Healey, who is running for governor after two four-year terms. Liss-Riordan sat down with WAMC to talk about how she would respond to sweeping Supreme Court decisions as attorney general, and why she chose to set her campaign self-funding limit at $12 million.

LISS-RIORDAN: What we've been seeing from the Supreme Court is just deplorable. I was a women's rights activist going back to my years right out of college. I marched for reproductive rights, I worked at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. It's just shocking where we are today. But what this means is that so much responsibility is now in the hands of state attorneys general. I have- It's no joke to say that I've spent the last 20 years of my legal career figuring out ways around bad Supreme Court decisions, and that's exactly what we're going to have to do here. I will use the full power of the office to fight to ensure that people have access to safe and accessible abortion here in Massachusetts, and that people coming here from other states that are not going to have those rights anymore in their states will be protected as well. So we need to make sure that our laws are enforced here and that other states aren't able to reach into Massachusetts and try to impose abortion bans here. I've talked with so many women, I've talked with doctors, I've talked with people who are really concerned about what the future of healthcare looks like, and the future of women's rights with these rights being torn apart by the US Supreme Court. I will fight back, I will make sure our rights are protected here in Massachusetts.

WAMC: This has been a feisty battle for attorney general within the Democratic Party, and there was some noise made last month about you setting your personal spending limit on your own campaign at $12 million, which is substantially higher than others in the race. Can you walk us through that? What exactly does that mean? And what do you make of the sort of response from the other campaigns about it?

Well, I am focusing my time on talking to voters and hearing what it is that they want to see the attorney general's office doing. And people understand that this is an important office for a seasoned, experienced lawyer, which is exactly what I am. So, you know, I'm doing what I need to do to get the message out the. When people hear the message about what my experiences, what I bring to the table, and what I will do as attorney general, they are jumping on board. I'm very excited about the support we have. As I'm traveling all around Massachusetts, more people are signing up to volunteer and get on board and we're getting the message out there. I'm not taking any corporate funds, I will not accept corporate super PAC funds. I am, I'm not beholden to anyone. I'm not beholden to corporations. I fight corporations, and I beat them for regular working people. And that's what I'm going to do as Massachusetts’ next attorney general.

So you're saying the $12 million was like a way to sort of draw attention to the campaign.

Um, I had to pick a number that's higher than what I'm going to spend in the race. I can guarantee you that is a number that's higher than what I'm going to spend in the race. And like I said, I'm getting out there and using what I have to make sure that our message is out there. Because we're going to win this race.

Is there an example from the Maura Healey tenure as AG of some that you disagreed with that Maura Healey did?

Well, one recent battle we had that I'm actually quite proud of is, I've been representing gig workers for more than a decade. In fact, I started the national conversation about the importance of drivers for companies like Uber or Lyft and DoorDash to have employee rights. When those companies came here to Massachusetts to try to buy themselves a law, like they did a couple years ago in California, I co-founded a coalition of workers’ rights advocates, civil rights advocates, and consumer advocates that said, no, we're not going to let that happen in Massachusetts. And so the attorney general's office certified that ballot initiative to go on our ballot in November. I was on the legal team that challenged that, and we were successful just a few weeks ago at the SJC, and we got the SJC to agree to throw it off the ballot, which was a huge victory for workers, consumers, taxpayers across Massachusetts.

With only a few more weeks until the primary, what do you see as the critical battlegrounds for this race? Where is this going to get decided?

It's getting decided all across Massachusetts. You know, I think that we've got some really important offices that that are open right now. You know, there's been focused on the governor's race. I think the attorney general is such an important position for determining where do we go from here, you know, with the Supreme Court ripping apart our rights- Not just for reproductive rights, but tearing down our protections for public safety with their ruling on gun protection, and now they've taken away the ability of the federal government to enforce our environmental laws. So much more attention is going to fall on state attorneys general. I have been a leader across the country, one of the most successful lawyers in the workers’ rights arena across the country and I plan to be a leader among attorneys general nationally.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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