LOWELL — In a close race for Middlesex District Attorney, incumbent Marian Ryan was chosen over Donna Patalano to keep her seat as the county’s top-prosecutor.
With Ryan showing an approximately 10,000-vote lead, with 70 percent of the districts reporting, Patalano called Ryan to concede defeat at around 11:30 p.m.
The primary victory means Ryan will be the only name appearing on the ballot in the November general election. No Republican candidates are running for the position, though write-in candidates are allowed.
“The first priority is the recently passed criminal justice reform bill, and continuing her effort in Lowell to coordinate the reduction in opioid overdoses,” said Scott Ferson, Ryan’s campaign spokesman.
Ryan, a Belmont resident, has held the seat since April 2013, when then-Gov. Deval Patrick appointed her to fill Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone’s unexpired four-year term. With an absence of Republican candidates in the 2014 general election, Ryan went on to defeat Michael Sullivan, the Middlesex Clerk of courts, in that year’s winner-take-all Democratic primary.
“I’m very proud of what we built here,” said Ryan during a Sun interview last month. “I am running again to continue that walk — particularly as it relates to Lowell and the Merrimack Valley area. I’ve spent a lot of time building relationships with the critical stakeholders that are critical to continuing the progress we’ve made. We’ve done a lot in the last five years.”
Patalano resigned from her position as Suffolk County District Attorney’s Chief of Professional Integrity & Ethics to campaign full time for the Middlesex DA position. The Winchester Democrat also worked in health-care management before going into law school and spending time as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Patalan is unsure of what her future holds, noting she put her “entire heart and soul into the race.”
“I was an unknown 10 months ago and we ran a grassroots campaign of a lifetime,” she said Tuesday night. “People understood the message. I think election day, the day after Labor Day was not helpful to getting the message out to all the voters, but I’m very proud of the campaign we ran and the connections we made with so many people across Middlesex County was amazing. There are certainly no regrets.”
Patalano attacked Ryan throughout her campaign, saying transformative change is needed in the DA’s Office. She faulted Ryan for not releasing data pertaining to her policies, labeling the DA as a “black box” when it came to releasing such data as bail requests, pretrial incarcerations, as well as who is prosecuted versus who is diverted and the outcomes of diversion programs.
District attorneys aren’t required to release the information by law, but Patalano said it is a matter of transparency and accountability.
Ryan countered she has built a partnership with the Northeastern Criminal Justice Bureau and with the American Institute of Research to build databases. She added she has already been addressing inequities that she is sure exists — regardless of the lack of data.
Ryan has called the opioid crises as a top-challenge facing the DA’s office. She sited her multi-pronged approach to address the problem, including channeling significant prosecutorial resources toward high-level traffickers that profit from bringing opioids into the area. This is done while expanding treatment and pre-trial diversion opportunities for those struggling with addiction, she said.
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis