The Massachusetts AG hopeful survived a traumatic family history

BOSTON (AP) — Long before she launched her campaign for the top law enforcement job in Massachusetts, Andrea Campbell carried with her the weight of a life haunted by the specter of crime and the criminal justice system.

When she was just a child, Campbell’s father was sent to prison for eight years. His mother died in a car accident on her way to his home, forcing Campbell and his brothers to live with relatives and in foster care.

Much later, her twin brother would die in police custody and her older brother would face charges in a series of alleged rapes.

Despite the trauma and dislocation, the Democratic nominee for attorney general — who grew up in Boston’s Roxbury and South End neighborhoods, the city’s traditional center of black life — was able to find a very different path, fueled by success in school, the help of family members and teachers, and his skill in jumping rope.

“One thing I frequently do is share my story because I think there are so many who carry their story with a sense of shame and don’t want to talk about it, including the criminal aspects of my family,” said she said in an interview. with the Associated Press. “But there’s no shame in sharing your story. There’s power in that.

Campbell’s Republican opponent Jay McMahon said a tragedy in his own life – the death of his son, Joel, from an opioid overdose in 2008 – was a motivating factor in his decision to run .

McMahon said his son served in the military during the US invasion of Iraq, traveling as far as Baghdad before he was injured and prescribed oxycontin, to which he eventually became addicted .

Campbell, 40, attended the city’s prestigious public exam school, the Boston Latin School, which led her to Princeton University, UCLA Law School and a position in the administration of former Governor Deval Patrick. She became the first black woman president of the Boston City Council and launched a failed mayoral bid last year.

It was through the intervention of family members, employers and teachers that Campbell was able to take this path. She remembers a teacher and her husband buying her clothes so that when she traveled to compete in Dutch doubles competitions, she could also visit colleges.

Campbell said she learned to turn personal pain into a bigger goal, even after her brother, Alvin Campbell Jr., was arrested for allegedly impersonating a taxi driver and kidnapping and raping a woman looking for a ride home after leaving a Boston nightclub. . Other similar charges would follow.

Campbell said she had her young son in her arms when she learned of the arrest.

“I was holding him, literally preparing to treat him, when I got the call about my older brother and his arrest, and it was heartbreaking,” Campbell said.

“And then immediately, like I’ve done throughout my life, I had to say, ‘OK, now what are you going to do with this? ‘” she added. “Yes, I have to deal with my own trauma and pain, which I encourage everyone to do, but this is an opportunity to go further…to make sure we break the cycles of violence , criminalization and much more.”

She said she had not spoken to her brother since his arrest.

“I look at my older brother’s charges and what’s going on there as another lost brother, which is sad and tragic for me,” she said. “So now I have two brothers who are lost.”

Campbell, a married mother of two young boys, said she applauds the courage of any woman who comes forward to share serious sexual assault allegations, adding: ‘We probably have to start by believing them. I have been perfectly clear.

Although she didn’t run to be the state’s first black female AG, if she wins, the accolade matters, said Campbell, who is committed to seeing her work through what she calls a “equity lens”.

“On the campaign trail, when people were saying what are the top three issues you would address, I would never list racial disparities because living in that gender and that skin, it should be the norm of the office to always bridge the gaps racial backgrounds, to always address sexism or sexual or sexual discrimination,” she said.

Campbell, who said her faith was another source of strength, also pledged to use the office to tackle issues that might have been overlooked by other AGs. These include prison reform, juvenile justice, health disparities and the economy in rural communities across the state.

When she got into trouble at school, she said, she was treated differently than her twin brother, Andre. She was usually sent to speak to someone, while Andre often faced a suspension and expulsion hearing.

Many who live in communities of color are frustrated with what Campbell describes as a lack of accountability in how crimes are prosecuted, feeling overly policed ​​and incarcerated. She said it’s too easy to portray these areas as overrun by mobs or gangs.

“I push back on this narrative because I live in one of these communities,” she said. “You have people working two or three jobs, working hard every day to make sure they deliver for their families, for their children and for their community.”

During the election campaign, McMahon attempted to portray Campbell as soft on crime.

“We have a crime wave right now and Andrea Campbell wants to take away qualified immunity and defund the police,” he said. “I will never reimburse the cops.”

Campbell said what she wants is to make sure no one is above the law, including civil servants, elected officials and the police.

She also said she hopes her story can serve as inspiration.

“If you look at my life, it’s a model and an example of what opportunity can do to lift someone out of a very tragic upbringing of trauma, pain, suffering, loss to help them achieve their dreams and their potential,” she said. .

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Read more about the issues and factors at play midterm at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

About James K. Bonnette

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