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Quentin Palfrey, Candidate for Attorney General of Massachusetts

As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Quentin Palfrey, Candidate for Attorney General of Massachusetts.

Quentin Palfrey is a former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General and was the first Chief of the office’s Healthcare Division. He served as a Senior Advisor in President Obama’s White House Office of Science and Technology, and as Acting General Counsel for the Department of Commerce on day one of the Biden-Harris administration. He is also the founder of the Voter Protection Corp, an organization that works to fight voter suppression.

Quentin is running for AG to address the everyday issues facing people in Massachusetts, including dismantling the barriers of structural racism, standing with workers against wage theft, pushing back against the assault on reproductive rights, and injecting urgency into our response to climate change. He has been endorsed by the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Progressive Mass and several other advocacy organizations.

Quentin currently lives in Weston with his wife Anna and their three children.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Quentin’s background in a political family (01:45)
  • Quentin’s experience working with President Obama in the White House (02:41)
  • Quentin’s experience working with President Biden, and The Biden and Harris Administration (04:27)
  • The motivation to run for Attorney General (06:36)
  • Quentin’s plan to follow in Maura Healey’s footsteps if elected (09:23)
  • Whether or not the Attorney General needs Legislative Approval (11:12)
  • Quentin’s thoughts on dismantling structural racism in MA (12:18)
  • Quentin’s plans for Education (15:03)
  • The Fair Share Amendment, also known as The Millionaire’s Tax (19:11)
  • Closing Statement (19:42)

Connect with Quentin Palfrey

For more information on all things Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I want to introduce you to a new segment of our show the Meet the candidate series. It is intended to give candidates running for public office, a platform in a voice so voters know who is running for office, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if they are so fortunate to be elected. So please feel free to share these interviews with your family and friends and citizens around this fine land because an educated and informed population is essential for a healthy democracy. And isn’t that what we all really want a healthy democracy? Enjoy the interviews stay healthy? My name is Jimmy tingle, and I approve this message

Hello, everybody, this is Jimmy. Welcome to another episode of the show. We are starting a new series called Meet the Candidates and the candidate I want you to meet ladies and gentlemen is Mr. Quinton Palfrey. Quinton Palfrey is a former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General and was the first Chief of Staff of the offices healthcare Division. He served as a senior advisor in President Obama’s White House Office of Science and Technology and as acting general counsel for the Department of Commerce on day one of the Biden Harris administration. He is also the founder of the Voter Protection core, an organization that works to fight voter suppression. Quentin is running for Attorney General of Massachusetts to address the everyday issues facing the people of Massachusetts. Please welcome to the show, The One and Only Mr. Quinton Palfrey. Hello, Quinton, how are you? Hey, Jimmy, great to be here with you. Thanks for having me. Of course. Good to see you. Again. Quinton, just give my audience a little bit of a background on you. You grew up here in Massachusetts, from a political family would you say absolutely.

Quentin Palfrey 1:52
And you know, my parents are pediatricians. And I grew up watching them care for some of the most vulnerable communities in Massachusetts, my dad was working in Worcester, my mom was working in Boston, and we lived in Southborough, in Worcester County, and I really admired their commitment to public service, and was inspired by that to get involved in a number of charitable enterprises. When I was in college, I founded a literacy program and some public housing facilities and homeless shelters in Boston and Cambridge, and then went to law school and have been involved in various ways in public service ever since. It’s true. We’ve got a lot of roots here in Massachusetts proud of that proud of that heritage, and, you know, really feel a commitment to this to this community.

Jimmy Tingle 2:41
So when you were working with President Obama in the White House, how was that

Quentin Palfrey 2:47
such such a such a wonderful experience, I was very inspired by his campaign in 2008, I was involved in voting rights issues, I’ve been involved in voter protection for a long time, we have a system where people of color are young people, people move around a lot face obstacles to registering and voting that other folks in the system don’t face. That’s when I think of the great challenges of our democracy right now. And that’s gone back for a long time. I’ve been working on these issues for a long time. And that’s how I got involved with Obama was working on those issues from state to state and eventually in Ohio. And then when he won, I had the opportunity to come into his administration, as a political appointee. And it was really a magical time, we were dealing with some really big challenges. We had the greatest recession since the Great Depression. And so we were trying to claw our way out of those challenges. But I also felt like we were part of a community that was really trying to, to build something in the country and build an economy that works for everyone build civil rights for everybody. And so being a part of that community, and being able to be inspired by somebody who I think it will go down in history is one of the great presidents and is also just a terrific person. You know, we’re in a time in American history where there’s a lack of civility, where there’s a lot of difficulty of getting common ground. And I think that Obama and Michelle Obama first lady really demonstrated a kind of civility and dignity and, you know, something that, you know, he modeled for your kids. And I think it’s really important to try and hold on to that when your public sphere.

Jimmy Tingle 4:27
And so tell me about the Joe Biden, how was it working with the Biden and Harris administration? Yeah.

Quentin Palfrey 4:32
So I mean, I was involved in a transition from George HW Bush, to Obama and from Trump to Biden, and I will tell you, there were very, very different experiences with a lot of the folks who were involved in the George W. Bush administration. They had different views from us, but they ran a very competent organization and transitioned over to us, you know, a government that was well functioning. The Trump administration left the government in shambles and was characterized As in many ways by, you know, corruption and mismanagement, and was really very, was really a very difficult transition. So on day one of the Biden Harris administration, part of the reason why I went back into government was that I thought it was helpful to have some people who had been there before, we didn’t need to find their way around the bureaucracy, and who’d be able to step in pretty quickly to clean up some messes. One of the messes that I personally was very, very involved in was we I inherited as acting general counsel, the Commerce Department, all of the legal issues relating to the US census that had been very badly mismanaged by the Trump administration. And we did need to reverse course, very quick, quickly in partnership with folks in the Census Bureau and the folks in the Justice Department to try to get that census in a better direction. We also inherited some internal mismanagement, some of which was characterized by very bad behavior in the national security space. And so, you know, I, we had a team of about 400 lawyers, it was an agency of about 50,000 people $12 billion budget. And, you know, it’s really been pretty poorly mismanaged. And so we wanted a both to kind of clean up those messes, get in the new secretary and depth second general counsel, and also try to drive forward our 100 Day agenda. And a lot of that did remotely hear from Massachusetts, but it was really honored to be involved in the administration. Ultimately, I wanted to stay in Massachusetts, and I wanted to explore running for Attorney General.

Jimmy Tingle 6:36
Now what made you decide to run for attorney general.

Quentin Palfrey 6:39
So I loved the Attorney General’s office, I was in the Attorney General’s office as an assistant attorney general. And this the first chief of the health care division, and I’ve seen firsthand how much impact the Ag can have on people’s lives. I personally was involved in a lot of issues around health care, and, and consumer protection of when I was in the office. And I think those remain very important issues. For a lot of people here today, too, it’s too hard to access health care, we under invest in, in substance use treatment and mental health services. Health care costs too much, and the need for more investment in substance use services. So those sets of issues are really important to me, as are some of the challenges of trying to build an economy that works for everybody, not just the people at the very top, the AG has a really strong consumer protection role, and also a really important role in workers rights standing up for folks who are being mistreated in an employment context. And so I really care about that set of consumer protection issues. I care a lot about our public schools, we have a lot of disparities in our public school system, we had Brown versus Board of Education sort of created this expectation that we were going to have schools that were integrated in schools that were equal. And we have neither of those things are right now Massachusetts. So I think that’s a real civil rights challenge. We have a climate crisis, which could not possibly be more important for our future. And we have an international community and a federal government who are failing to meet that moment. And so I think we need the states to step in. And the State Ag I think has a really big role in trying to tackle the climate crisis. We also have a supreme court that’s been hijacked by radical conservative extremists who are taking aim at some of our fundamental rights. And that opinion that Justice Alito wrote on reproductive rights, also signals a really broad attack on on LGBTQ rights on equal marriage, on contraception on interracial marriage. And so you, it’s very hard to understate the challenges that we face in our legal system. It’s just chilling, to see the armed mob stormed the Capitol trying to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. As you know, I’ve spent a lot of my career sort of thinking about how we can shore up our democracy and voting rights. And I think that Massachusetts has a really important role to play in that and the AG has an important role to play in that. So we need to sort of take take on this leadership role. I think the Ag office has played that role for last couple of decades, and I’d like to be part of that.

Jimmy Tingle 9:23
Yeah, I assume you were quite impressed with Mara Haley’s tenure as Attorney General, the People’s Lawyer, would you hope to follow in those footsteps in terms of her approach to her work as attorney general?

Quentin Palfrey 9:38
Yeah, absolutely. So more. Healy has been terrific Attorney General in the ag office, Massachusetts, national leader on so many different issues. I had the great pleasure to serve alongside her I was the chief of the healthcare division when she was the chief of the Civil Rights Division. We work together on a number of issues. And I think that the proud tradition of that office, you know, it has been in full display Recently suing ExxonMobil suing Purdue pharma suing the Trump administration over and over and over again. You know, the office in recent years has played a big role in fighting the foreclosure crisis has played a big role in taking on Walmart has played a big role in taking on the climate crisis in the context of the case, it was called Massachusetts versus EPA. So that’s just as true in General’s Office is much more than sort of one of many statewide offices in a medium sized state, the Massachusetts ag offices played a really strong role a national leadership role, ticket to gun control. It’s just devastating, you know, to see my dad, drop off my my five year old at school, see cops, cop cars, protecting our schools, and we’re grateful for that service. But it is just chilling to see, you know, to see these these mass shootings and see the NRA just be able to prevent any meaningful action at the federal level, Massachusetts is the lead on those kinds of issues we have, and we’ve had good results in terms of preventing gun violence, but that leadership role needs to be at the forefront of what we do

Jimmy Tingle 11:12
the Ag doesn’t need, or do they need legislative approval? Do they need the help of a governor? Or is that something you can just go with your own moral compass on things, I

Quentin Palfrey 11:24
think it’s more than your own moral compass in Massachusetts or Attorney General was independently constitutionally elected. So in some states, the Ag works for the governor, just as the federal he works for the in the presidential administration, in our system, the AG has independently constitutionally elected. And so in terms of the law enforcement and, and some of the legal aspects of the work, you’re obviously governed by the Constitution, then by your own, you know, by the laws mandates, but but you can do a lot of that within the AGs purview. So the AG has really broad authority. At the same time, there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate with other parts of the government. And I’d love to be able to work with Democratic administration to take on some of these bold challenges. The AG has a real tradition of engaging with the legislature on important issues.

Jimmy Tingle 12:18
Right. So like I was reading your list of things that you would you know, you aspire to work on dismantling the barriers of structural racism standing for with workers against wage theft, things like this, for example, structural racism, is that something? How do you see, you know, how do you see approaching that in the state,

Quentin Palfrey 12:38
where you live in the color of your skin should not determine what kind of education your kids get. And I think that that is a civil rights challenge at the highest order. And something we certainly have talked about a lot on the trail is when the great civil rights challenges of our time, and he is the chief Civil Rights Officer in the Commonwealth. And I think does need to take that issue on with urgency. We have a constitutional obligation and affirmative constitutional obligation to our children to provide a free and appropriate public education. So I think we need to take that very seriously. You asked her how do you think about structural racism, and I think of it as something that, unfortunately pervades almost every aspect of the office in almost every aspect of our economy and society. Um, so if you talk about criminal justice reform, certainly, there are huge racial disparities in terms of who ends up in the criminal justice system and how they’re treated in the criminal justice system. So taking on a police accountability to record criminal justice reform, corrections, oversight is absolutely part of the racial justice agenda. But there are huge racial disparities in the health care system, there are huge racial disparities in the voting system in the economy, is you’ve talked about how you’re going to tackle the climate crisis. We know that communities of color are hit hardest by the climate crisis, and are most in need of supportive voices to prevent polluting facilities from coming into those communities. So unfortunately, racial justice needs to be everybody’s a priority, no matter sort of were in the office work. And so that’s the way I would think about it on day one of the Biden Harris administration, the Biden Harris administration issued an executive order that essentially said, everywhere you are in the government, we’re going to hold you accountable for taking on racial justice, there was a similar one relating to the climate crisis and I would like to model that within our office and essentially say, you may think that your job is working on labor, but your your job is also working on structural racism, you may think that your job is advising government agencies about how to do you know some some of their their work, but when you do that, I will expect you to take on structural racism as part Your mandate, and everyone needs to be accountable?

Jimmy Tingle 15:03
And how would you address, for example, education in the state of Massachusetts? So it’s not based on property taxes, so much of it’s based on property taxes. And if you have nice property, you got better schools? And if you don’t have nice property, you don’t, is that something the Ag could actually be involved in? But that I assume you would need the legislation, you need the governor behind you to enact those types of reforms? Is that right?

Quentin Palfrey 15:29
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. A couple of a couple of things here first, you know, I’m a big fan of evidence and data. As we’re sort of tackling large issues, we should follow what the data show us one of the things that I think that I’ve seen in this area, is that a lot of the disparities that we see in the education system, and then people’s life trajectories, are happened very early. And so if you just start to tackle the disparities in the education system, when people enter kindergarten, you’ve already you already have a number of those challenges to contend with. And so we need to start in our communities, we need to start with high quality childcare and daycare, we need to start with dealing with some of the challenges relating to intergenerational poverty and, and racism in our communities, you then we need to tackle some of the disparities in the education system itself, the student Opportunity Act was a step in the right direction to change the foundation budget, we have a lot of lot more work to do, to remedy the inequalities in the resources that are devoted to, to education. But the solutions that DC and the governor’s administration have a lot to take on some of these challenges have actually, I think, in many cases made the problems worse.

Jimmy Tingle 16:57
Do you know of any cities in the country, any cities getting it right? Because most of our cities have very similar in terms of the challenges of public education, or homelessness or abuse, you know, substance abuse disorder, or criminal justice, do you know of any cities roughly the same size that are doing a as good a job or better than than we are that we could emulate? Or cities in and other countries that are doing it better?

Quentin Palfrey 17:24
I think it’s a great question. I think you started with something, Jimmy that I agree with, which is that the property tax system of funding education does have some real challenges in terms of how we we equalize some of the resources that are being spent. And so I think that is one of the things that really gets in the way here, I’d love to see a broader base of way. And some countries have broader base ways of equalizing the funding and more than that sort of taking on some of the underlying challenges. But no, I think I think more broadly, there are some systems that we need to kind of rethink, think about criminal justice reform, we have tried to arrest and incarcerate our way out of larger structural problems. And instead, we need to think about how to invest more in prevention in your community engagement in substance use treatment and stable housing and mental health services and our health care system. We have the same problem. We spend too much we spend it too late we spend it in the health care system. And we should be focusing more on prevention and public health and chronic disease management, those sorts of things. I think the same is true with our educational system, that really sort of taking on equality of opportunity does require structural reforms to the way that we fund and structured schools but but but it also involves a really honest about some of the structural challenges in our economy, more broadly, some of the ways in which cyclical poverty works and racism, you know, sort of has an intergenerational component. It’s hard work, and we have to get on and but it’s hard to sort of think of it, you have to think about it. intersectionally. I think

Jimmy Tingle 19:11
one of the other issues that we talked about when we were both on the trail a few years ago was the millionaire’s tax. What are your views on the millionaire’s tax? Are you still in favor of it? lately? Absolutely. I’ve

Quentin Palfrey 19:23
been for a long time. I believe that the fair share amendment is an important step, asking the very wealthy to pay a little bit more so that we’ve got more resources to invest in transportation and an education and trying to build a broader based economy. I think it’s something that we should do. We probably should do more than that, but it’s a very good start.

Jimmy Tingle 19:42
Good start. Quinton. So if somebody wants to make a donation campaign, how would they find you? Where would they find you?

Quentin Palfrey 19:50
If you would like to make a contribution to our campaign? You can join us at Quentin palfrey.com. We also are running a truly grassroots organization. So are proud to win the endorsement of the Democratic Party at the convention last weekend been endorsed by progressive mass progressive Dems and mass, our revolution mass. And we’d love to have your help as volunteers in your own community, we have to get our message out to a large number of people. We already have our Republican opponent, Jim McMahon taking shots at us for the the general election as well. And so we’d love to, we’d love to have your help. And please join our grassroots team and quantum coffee.com.

Jimmy Tingle 20:31
Right. And people can volunteer there as well. Absolutely. Absolutely. We’d love to have your help. Well, Quentin, it’s great to see you again. Congratulations on your decision to run. Congratulations on getting the endorsement of the mass dems, and I will see you on the campaign trail.

Quentin Palfrey 20:46
It’s really a real pleasure to be here with you.

Jimmy Tingle 20:48
Yep. A pleasure to be with you as well. Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity. Jimmy tingle.com Thank you

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