The low-key race for attorney general between favored Democrat James M. Shannon and Republican Edward F. Harrington is becoming closer as election day nears, campaign officials say.
The main issues between the two are their experience and views of the attorney general's office. The attorney general serves as the chief law enforcer of Massachusetts and represents the state in any suit or civil proceeding.
Shannon, 34, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1973 and received a law degree from George Washington University in 1975. He practiced law in Lawrence until 1978 and served three terms in Congress.
He worked as a senior partner in a Boston law firm from 1984 to the start of the race.
Harrington, 53, is a graduate from Holy Cross College and Boston Law School and worked for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy '48 as a trial attorney in 1961.
In 1965 he was appointed assistant U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, and in 1977 President Carter appointed him U.S. attorney for the state. Prior to this campaign, Harrington has worked in a private law firm.
"Ted Harrington has experience," said Harrington campaign consultant Charley Manning. "He has been a lawyer and prosecutor for 25 years, handling organized crime and political corruption."
"He will enforce the laws as they are in the books, and put more emphasis on hard crime," said Manning.
Harrington may have experience, said Shannon's press secretary Laurence Collins, "but he has not demonstrated the advantages of it," for the attorney general's job.
"We feel Harrington has a narrow view of the office because his campaign is based on prosecutorial experience," said Collins. "Shannon views the office in a broader way--as a policy-making administrative job that sets the direction for public welfare," he said.
Shannon's campaign stresses the nuclear power issue. "The opening of new plants is a crucial area for the next attorney general, and Shannon believes that the office must represent the interests of the Commonwealth," said Collins.
"He is oppossed to irresponsible nuclear power and utility companies that will expose residents to accidents," said Leslie G. Espinoza, a Shannon supporter.
"But Harrington doesn't believe that the attorney general can play such a large role in the area. He has already thrown in the towel regarding nuclear power," said Collins.
Harrington intends to continue with the present environmental protection laws established by retiring Attorney General Francis X. Bellotti, and he wants to beef up the prosecution of criminal cases by creating an organized-crime strike force, a drug strike force, and a larger staff for investigating corruption, said Manning.
During his career, "Harrington has put some of the biggest mob partiarchs behind bars. He's been around, knows those players, and can handle them," Manning said.
Shannon will also initiate similar policies. "Drug trafficing is on the minds of most citizens, and Shannon wants to create a drug unit" that will strenghten ties between the police and government in order better to handle the problem, said Collins.
"He will support legislation for forfeiture laws," which means that property unrelated to the specific crimes of convicted felons can be subject to seizure, said Collins.
Shannon wants to strengthen the attorney general's role in consumer protection. "He wants a more addressive approach to environmental pollutors, by criminally prosecuting them whenever possible, said Collins.
His policies are aimed not at inadvertant spills, but at serious dumpers. "Not only will they have to pay for cleanup and damages, they will be behind bars," he said.
Harrington takes a strong stand and has a consistently good record on civil rights, said Manning. "As United States attorney for Massachusetts, Harrington sought to employ as many Blacks and minorities as possible. During Shannon's terms as Congressman, he didn't hire one Black or minority."