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Interim Suffolk Co. DA Kevin Hayden is running for a full term

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
Interim Suffolk Co. DA Kevin Hayden is running for a full term
Interim Suffolk County D.A. Kevin Hayden announces his candidacy. Behind are Rev. Ray Hammond, Rev. Gilbert Thompson and Michelle Hayden. BANNER PHOTO

Interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden launched a bid for the seat outright last Wednesday, bringing the race for Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop’s top prosecutor into sharper focus.

Hayden, former chair of Sex Offender Registry Board, was appointed to the office by Gov. Charlie Baker last month to finish the term left by former DA Rachael Rollins, who stepped down to become the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts.

His campaign launch comes one week after Boston City Councilor and local political dynast Ricardo Arroyo launched his bid, declaring himself the heir to Rollins’ progressive prosecutorial tenure.

On Wednesday, Hayden framed himself as a more experienced and moderate candidate for the job, one willing to place an emphasis on the traditional priority of public safety while also pursuing systemic changes.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a national demand for criminal system reform and the cure of its racial inequities,” Hayden said during a Dorchester press conference.

“As a Black man, I entirely welcome this focus because it’s long overdue and I know full well that it’s long overdue because I’ve been practicing the approaches to reform throughout my entire career,” he continued.

Hayden previously worked in the Suffolk County DA’s office as an assistant district attorney from 1997 to 2008, first under Ralph Martin, then Dan Conley.

He worked as a criminal defense attorney afterwards, then Baker appointed him to the Sex Offender Registry Board.

“I’m confident that we can change our approach to criminal justice,” he said. “But public safety and full equity in our system are not mutually exclusive. We must be ever mindful of public safety as we endeavor for a better and more equitable system. All our communities demand a dedication to both.”

Hayden pledged to prioritize the removal of illegal guns and the fostering of community relations as well as the prosecution of violent criminals and big drug traffickers.

If elected, he said he would continue diverting and declining to prosecute “low-level offenses,” but stopped short of embracing the controversial list of 15 non-violent offenses which the DA’s office under Rollins declined to prosecute except in certain circumstances.

“We’ll continue to look at it and utilize it as we determine what offenses need to be diverted and declined for prosecution,” Hayden said.

At-Large City Councilor Michael Flaherty is also mulling a run for the office.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.