Attorney General Candidate Tolman Talks Drugs, Guns in Election Bid
By Andy McKeever On: 03:52AM / Friday August 29, 2014
Warren Tolman spoke to area Democrats on Sunday at Camp Russell.
RICHMOND, Mass. — Warren Tolman remembers one particular night he took his son trick-or-treating.
"Two weeks after my dad died — he was the third of three to die — we were going out trick-or-treating, my son and I. He was dressed as a cowboy with the chaps and all of the stuff cowboys wear. As we're walking out the door, he looks up to me and says 'dad, all cowboys smoke,'" Tolman told iBerkshires on Sunday in an interview at Camp Russell.
That was more than 20 years ago when he was in the state Legislature and it would trigger his all-out offensive against tobacco companies.
"They got my father. They got my mother. They got my aunt. They will not get my son. I just went after them with all the vigor and energy I could."
As both a state representative and state senator, Tolman headed a movement against tobacco companies from Beacon Hill. He pushed for the ban on smoking in restaurants and sales of individual cigarettes. He forced the companies to disclose their additives and ingredients, among the array of laws passed in the 1990s.
"I was attacked by Rush Limbaugh and called an 'anti-smoking nazi' — that's how I knew I was doing something right," Tolman said.
The Democrat also worked on campaign finance reform and crafted laws to protect victims of domestic abuse during his time in the Legislature. And he was happy with his work over an eight-year period.
Tolman then ran for lieutenant governor in 1998 but lost in the general election. Four years later, he lost a bid for governor.
At that point, he dropped out of the public eye and went back to being an attorney, with international law firm Holland & Knight, while teaching at Boston College on the side. He raised three children.
Then the Boston Marathon bombing happened and one of the alleged bombers was tracked to Tolman's hometown as the city was shut down.
"I had the SWAT team come through my house. We could talk for two hours on just that day. But, when you are standing at the top of your basement stairs with your 15-year-old daughter beside you and these guys are in your basement at the foot of your stairs, you hear one of them yell 'door open right,' you see the guns turn to the right and for a second you think 'my goodness, is this going to go down in my basement?'" Tolman said.
"I think about what those guys are trying to do to make a difference. They put their lives on the line for me and my family. I harkened back to my tenure in the Legislature and I like the feeling that I made a difference."
Tolman started to think about going back to politics. When Attorney General Martha Coakley announced her candidacy for governor, two former attorney generals, knowing Tolman's thoughts of possibly re-entering the public sphere, urged him to run for it.
"I was proud of those initiatives and I know I've saved some lives. I know kids aren't smoking today because of my efforts and I'm really proud of that," Tolman said. "I look at the AG's office today as one that can have a tremendous impact on new issues."
Those new issues include bring "smart gun" technology into the state. Tolman refers to the technology as "seat belts for guns" in which the handles of guns are equipped with palm-print sensors that will only allow certain people to fire. Tolman says the National Riffle Association has essentially forced Smith & Wesson, which developed the product, to shelve the technology. Tolman wants to make it mandatory.
Tolman says he wants to go after the "drug scourge" that is plaguing the commonwealth. He says he wants to force pill producers to make tamper-resistant medicine, sue the pharmaceutical companies for any unfair and deceptive behavior and bring up charges on doctors who are overprescribing. Meanwhile, with laws now forcing insurance companies to pay longer stays for substance abuse recovery, Tolman says he is ready to ensure that actually happens.
"Mine is a broad vision. It is a vision in which one can utilize the attorney general's office to make a dramatic impact on a wide range of issues," he said.
But the job isn't just about prosecuting and investigating, Tolman said, but also advocating for laws in the Legislature and bringing various parties together.
For example, Tolman is calling for a summit to bring the state's colleges and university together to develop and implement best practices to combat sexual assault on campus. He also says he wants to make the process for residents to file consumer complaints easier.
"I know that when we make college campuses safer, other states will do so after. I know that if address the opioid scourge, it will be a nationally prescient thing. I know that when we make smart-gun technology finally available in Massachusetts, other states will follow," Tolman said. "It's about being a leader."
Tolman says not only is he the best candidate for the attorney general position but that he can help the entire Democratic party's ticket.
"I think I add a lot to the Democratic party in terms of the electability of the entire Democratic ticket. I appeal to a progressive Democrat as well as appeal to the working-class, blue-collar folks," Tolman said. "It is about appealing across the board."
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