With the fall election campaign heating up, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was in the Berkshires Monday.
Healey, along with local Democratic leaders like Mayor Linda Tyer and State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, appeared at the new Berkshire County Democratic Coordinated Campaign Headquarters on Pittsfield’s North Street to endorse District Attorney candidate Andrea Harrington, who won September’s primary.
“I know that Andrea is going to support the kinds of important criminal justice reforms that I have supported as attorney general, and with the passage of the criminal justice reform law — thank you Representative Farley-Bouvier for that — there is work to be done, and Berkshire County deserves to have the kind of office that I know will be well run, will be smartly run, and it will be about looking out for and protecting the needs and the well being of families here in the region,” Healey told the assembled crowd.
Harrington is fending off a write-in campaign from incumbent DA Paul Caccaviello in November’s general election. Healey said she saw something of herself in Harrington’s campaign when she reflected on her first run for office in 2014.
“I think about the fact that I was somewhat of an outsider to a race, and a lot of people had told me at that time to wait my turn, that it wasn’t my time — and I’m proud that we were able to get through that,” she said.
After that, the 47-year-old attorney general — a graduate of Harvard and the Northeastern University School of Law — turned to the race she’s running now.
“We’ve worked hard across a lot of fronts over the last four years. I'm proud of our record," said Healy. "We recovered over $800 million for Massachusetts residents and taxpayers last year alone. We’ve stood up to fight issues of inequality and injustice. We haven’t been afraid to take on the president, because nobody’s above the law and frankly he’s done things that have hurt our state — access to healthcare, our clean energy economy, consumer protection — and so we’ve taken him to court to try to stop him from doing things that are going to harm Massachusetts residents.”
Healey, who faces Republican Jay McMahon in her bid for a second term, acknowledged her role in a controversial local matter: the Berkshire Museum’s sale of art from its collection to fund an expansion and an endowment, including donated works from iconic American artist and county resident Norman Rockwell.
“I feel like we did the best we could given the facts and the law and what we were confronted with," Healey told reporters. "I know that it is a deal that was approved by the court — the court wouldn’t have endorsed it if it didn’t think it was consistent with the law. I know it’s still an agreement and a result that is upsetting to many people. I personally did not want to see any art sold, but I have to do my job as attorney general and follow charities law, and based on that, we arrived at the decision we arrived at and the deal that we arrived at.”
Legal challenges to the museum’s plans mounted last fall, culminating in Healey’s office blocking the first of the sales, citing “irreparable harm to the public interest.” After months of negotiation, a settlement between the attorney general and the museum was released in early 2018 that would allow it to sell works up to a $55 million limit.
“We’re going to continue to monitor this," said the attorney general. "My focus now — I want to be clear, given the art that has been sold to date — I think that after these next two paintings are sold, sales need to stop, and the board needs to focus on hiring an executive director so that the institution can move on, and hopefully flourish.”
Healey offered condolences to those still rankled by the decision.
“I have sympathy, and I’m sorry for those who were disappointed by the ultimate settlement, but we did the best that we could based on the facts and the law,” she said.
In a statement to WAMC, the Berkshire Museum said that that it “[had] worked and [continued] to work closely with the Attorney General’s office to secure the future of the Berkshire Museum,” and “[looked] forward to continuing to do so consistent with the agreement reached between the museum and the Attorney General’s office and approved by the Supreme Judicial Court.”