Incumbent Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III secured his third term and ninth year in office Tuesday, winning about two-thirds of the vote, unofficial polling numbers show. He faced former Bristol DA prosecutor Shannon McMahon — with both running campaigns that were openly critical of the other.
Quinn, 62, reveled in his win of another four-year term among supporters during an election party in Westport.
“I feel vindicated,” said Quinn, who currently serves as the president of the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association. “I’m about serving the people … I feel, as I said, invigorated when I speak with them.”
Quinn told The Light Tuesday night that he will continue to address a backlog in the courts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue with existing initiatives, such as the cold case unit.
McMahon, 42, spent the day touring parts of the county with her husband. She issued a written statement late Tuesday night thanking her husband, family and supporters.
“Tonight we may have come up short, but we won in so many other ways,” she wrote. “We stuck to our message, we discussed the issues and not personal skeletons … Regardless of the outcome tonight, we put Tom Quinn on notice that he can no longer skate by. We let him know that we are paying attention.”
This was the first election in which Quinn ran opposed. He was appointed Bristol DA by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2015 after Quinn’s predecessor, Sam Sutter, left his term early after being elected mayor of Fall River. Before that, Quinn served as first assistant to Sutter for eight years.
McMahon, a Swansea resident, joined the Bristol DA’s office in 2014, working as a prosecutor for what was then called the drug court, she said, adding she also worked on domestic violence and sexual assault cases. She now works as a trial attorney.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell endorsed Quinn; the incumbent DA also received backing from several officials in the state Legislature as well as the Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police and the New Bedford firefighters union.
McMahon received the endorsement of advocacy group Bristol County for Correctional Justice.
Follow The New Bedford Light for the latest updates on the Nov. 8 elections, including election synopses and candidate profiles.
Linda Haskins, a New Bedford resident, said she voted for McMahon because she disagrees with Quinn’s use of dangerousness hearings (she thinks he uses it too much). As a result of these hearings, defendants can be held for several months without bail, which Haskins said is risky as they go to Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s jail.
According to data from the Massachusetts Trial Court, New Bedford and Fall River District Courts have the third- and fourth-highest counts of dangerousness hearings for fiscal year 2022.
Quinn this year testified in support of strengthening state legislation for these hearings, with his campaign stating it keeps “the most violent criminals off the streets” and protects the community and victims.
Zach Boyer, also of New Bedford, said he voted for Quinn, citing his untested rape kit initiative as the thing that “stuck out.” He said McMahon had some issues that would be “problematic” given the DA’s role.
McMahon resigned from the DA’s office in 2016 after being arrested and charged for domestic assault against her husband (a charge that was subsequently dropped).
McMahon told The Light her husband had just been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was taking a medication, Keppra, which can cause aggression and personality changes.
After the incident was mentioned in press coverage and during an in-person debate, McMahon’s campaign released a statement from her husband, Bryan Dunderdale, as well as her medical records from her visit to the hospital following her arrest.
In the statement, Dunderdale said he experienced an “episode of Keppra Rage” and that he beat McMahon “badly.”
During her campaign, McMahon criticized Quinn on his handling of an investigation into a Fall River police officer who fatally shot Anthony Harden while responding to a domestic violence call. Harden tried to stab another officer with a knife, according to police.
Quinn’s office confirmed the shooting involved an officer who is a friend of Quinn’s son, which drew criticism from McMahon. Quinn said it had no bearing on the case, but McMahon said it presented a “serious conflict of interest.”
Quinn told The Light that while Harden’s death is a tragedy, there is “no question” the police officer was justified in using deadly force.
Sign up for our free newsletter
Harden’s brother, Eric Mack (also an attorney), this summer petitioned the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to have Quinn removed as DA. Per the SJC docket, it is still pending.
Earlier in the day, McMahon stood at Buttonwood Park in the rain during her first stop of a daylong tour around the county. Asked if she’d run again if the outcome wasn’t in her favor, she answered in the affirmative.
“I’ll be glad when it’s done,” McMahon said, her husband by her side holding a campaign sign. “We got a lot of attention on a lot of big issues … I’m very proud, very honored to be a part of this … whatever way it goes, we ran a great campaign and I’m very proud of my team.”
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at firstname.lastname@example.org.