Sunday, February 26, 2006

Meeting With Gerry Leone

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Middlesex County District Attorney candidate Gerry Leone, along with David from Blue Mass. Group and Bill from Under the Golden Dome. It looks like the others have not yet posted their impressions from the meeting yet, but I'll be sure to link to their thoughts once they put them up.

This was the second time that I heard Leone in his own words, and the first time I heard him explain why he wanted to leave the US Attorney's office and run for DA. He said that he's been the number two prosecutor in the District Attorney's office, the Attorney General's office, and then as the First Assistant US Attorney. "It's time for me to coach the team," he said, adding that he wanted to make his mark on the office.

Leone emphasized his ability to bring different groups together, starting with his work with the Community Based Justice Program when he was in the Middlesex County DA's office, to his work as an anti-terrorism coordinator in the US Attorney's office. He claims to be uniquely suited to continue to do this as DA, since he has experience as a prosecutor at the county, state and federal levels, particularly dealing with the egos and turf battles that come with the territory.

I asked his opinion on the new Boston gun court. He said the gun court was a good fit for Boston because it would provide immediate consequences for violence, whereas the old system's backlog of cases meant that defendants might be out on bail for years before going to trial. Leone indicated that once the backlog was cleared out, they might not need to continue the program. It's more important for the DA's office to be flexible than to commit themselves to prioritizing at this level.

Leone expressed frustration that he's been characterized as a conservative and a "Bush Lawyer," saying that many of his former associates at the US Attorney's office would bristle at that description, despite the fact that they are in the Department of Justice. He pointed to the progressive programs he's implemented or helped expand in the past, particularly the Community Based Justice program and the Diversity Hiring program. This is the danger of running for office without a public record. If you're not careful, your opponent can define you before you get a chance to define yourself.

Leone is behind on fundraising right now, but has been keeping pace with his main opponent, state Senator Jarrett Barrios. His challenge will be getting his side of the story out despite having lower name recognition and less money. I'm glad he's reaching out to the blogs as a part of that strategy.