The two Republicans vying to go up against Attorney General Maura Healey struck common ground in a radio debate as they knocked the incumbent over her controversial 2016 crackdown on “copycat” assault weapons, called for more transparency from the office and pledged to step up prosecution against drug traffickers.
Lawyers Jay McMahon and Dan Shores also sought to distinguish themselves from each other in the forum on WATD’s “Monday Night Talk,” their final matchup before the Sept. 4 primary.
McMahon, who won the GOP’s endorsement at its April convention with 55 percent of the delegate vote, highlighted his military, law enforcement and courtroom experience while Shores described himself as a candidate who’s “come to reform the office.”
“I’m the only one with that message and vision, to get politics out of the office of attorney general, to return it to what its true purpose is, and that’s to enforce our laws and to protect our people,” said Shores, a Hingham resident who practices law out of Boston and previously worked as a litigator in Washington, D.C. before returning to Massachusetts to run for Congress in 2014.
McMahon, of Bourne, said his six years working in law enforcement on Cape Cod, six years in the National Guard, as a second lieutenant in the military police, and 12 years working in corporate management help prepare him to serve as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
“I’m a trial lawyer, he’s a patent lawyer,” McMahon said. “There’s nothing in patent law that prepares anyone for the work in the attorney general’s office.”
Given the opportunity to ask his opponent one question, McMahon asked Shores if he had ever tried a case in the Massachusetts trial court system. Shores said he had not, but that he had handled cases that settled before trial, appeared before the probate courts and participated in “a number of high-profile, multibillion dollar federal litigations.”
Shores’ question for McMahon was if a drug dealer who overdosed should be revived with Narcan. McMahon said “Absolutely.”
“If anybody is in any kind of a coma with respect to an overdose of anything or any kind of situation, I don’t think we have to second guess and play god and decide that they’re going to die because of something,” he said. “I say with hit them with Narcan and they become a candidate for some kind of mandatory rehabilitation.”
McMahon, who lost his oldest son to opioid addiction, said he has a three-point plan to tackle opioids, which includes “successful and effective rehabilitation,” joint state and federal task forces, and “extreme prosecution.”
Shores said his approach involves outreach and education for youth as well as cracking down on traffickers.
“My plan for opioids is to be very aggressive, to educate our kids, to get into schools with an aggressive speakers program to say, do not open this door to hell in the first place,” he said. “With these drugs it could be one strike and you’re out or one strike and you’re dead.”
The two candidates agreed the state’s gun laws should be simplified and that Healey’s 2016 notice that copies or duplicates of guns banned under the state’s assault weapon ban should be revoked, with McMahon saying he’d rescind it “on day one.”
“It was her solution to a nonexistent problem,” McMahon said. “No one got shot in Massachusetts, no gun owners went berserk, nothing at all happened. She said she was doing that in July of 2016 because she was going to get guns off the streets. No one’s guns got off the streets. She didn’t even get any of the bad guys’ guns. The only thing she did was antagonize the Second Amendment of the citizens of Massachusetts.”
Shores said Healey “overreached with this gun ban.”
“She bypassed the Legislature, she bypassed the governor,” he said. “It demonstrated an individual in our government that thought this individual could do what he or she wanted without regard to the republic that we live in. That’s a violation of our separation of powers.”
McMahon said he expects gun owners to play a key role in this year’s election, and he thinks his support for President Donald Trump will help him with voters.
“In 2014, I bet no one here remembers what the issues were, let alone who the Republican opponent was against Maura Healey,” McMahon said. “I could say who that was but that would be just history. What I’m saying is the voters are out there but the passion has to be for the issues, and the gun owners who slept through 2014 are wide awake and ready to go against Maura Healey.”
Healey won 62 percent of the vote in 2014 to defeat Republican John Miller.
Shores said he voted for Trump in 2016, describing the entrepreneur and reality TV star turned presidential candidate as a “disruptor.”
“I think people have a difficult time getting over the orange hair, but I think his message was very strong,” Shores said.
Shores said that the attorney general’s office should be “worried less about politics and more about what happens here in Massachusetts.”
“If the president of the United States does something against Massachusetts, no matter who it is, I will push back very strongly against the president, but I certainly won’t be filing 40 to 50 lawsuits like the present attorney general,” he said.
On regulation of utilities, McMahon said he would bring “substance” to Department of Public Utilities hearings, and Shores said he would “use the weight of the attorney general’s office to advocate for natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts.”
In a “lightning round” of short-answer questions, the two candidates said they supported reinstating the death penalty for killing a law enforcement officer and identified fighting public corruption as an important, overlooked duty of the office.
Asked to recommend a beach read, Shores suggested Sebastian Junger’s “The Perfect Storm,” while McMahon picked “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad” by former Department of Homeland Security officer Philip Haney.