LOWELL -- Middlesex Clerk of Courts Michael Sullivan landed a major endorsement Thursday from Scott Harshbarger, his former boss in the DA's office and on Beacon Hill when Harshbarger was attorney general.
Sullivan, a Democrat, faces Marian Ryan, also a Democrat, in the winner-take-all primary on Sept. 9.
Harshbarger is no stranger to the Middlesex District Attorney's Office having held the job for eight years from 1982 to 1990, after which he was elected state attorney general. In 2003, Harshbarger became senior counsel to the Boston lawfirm of Proskauer Rose LLP.
This is the first time since he left public office that Harshbarger has endorsed any district attorney candidate, he said. Sullivan said he is honored by Harshbarger's rare endorsement.
"The Middlesex District Attorney's Office has to be first and foremost about prosecuting cases...but it can be so much more than that as it relates to prevention, deterrence, as will as professional development in partnering with law enforcement and others to make a difference in our communities, to make them safe,'' Sullivan said. "That's what my candidacy is about, making a difference and making our streets safe.''
Managing prosecutors and support staff is critical, the district attorney must be active in community outreach and tackle the tough topics, such as domestic violence, juvenile justice, and the link between mental health issues and crime, Harshbarger said.
As Middlesex district attorney, Harshbarger said he worked with Sullivan and Ryan, both newly minted prosecutors. He says an endorsement of Sullivan does not mean he is against Ryan.
"It is not a question of whether she is a good prosecutor, it is are you prepared to lead the and manage a major professional law office (the district attorney's office),'' Harshbarger said.
"I will always view Marian (Ryan) as a solid assistant district attorney,'' Harshbarger said, "but Michael (Sullivan) brings a range of experience, background and vision to the office. He brings a refreshing perspective.''
Harshbarger said he is "proud'' of the depth of Sullivan's experience.
Cutting his teeth as a prosecutor with the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, Sullivan left to join Harshbarger at the state Attorney General's Office. Sullivan's managerial experience comes from stints as a Cambrige city councilor, chairman of the Cambridge School Committee and Cambridge mayor.
While Sullivan may have an "uphill battle'' against Ryan, who is viewed as the incumbent by being appointed to the position last year by Gov. Deval Patrick following the resignation of Gerard Leone, "He (Sullivan) wins if people get to meet him.''
Follow Lisa Redmond on Tout and Twitter@lredmond13_lisa.