The Democratic primary contest for attorney general has featured a competitive, combative race between one-time state legislator Warren Tolman and Maura Healey, former head of the Civil Rights Division of the AG's office under Martha Coakley.

As we enter the final full week of the campaign, polls show Tolman holding a slim lead.

Since both candidates hold similar, progressive views on most key issues, it's been difficult for them to distinguish themselves for the voters.

And so especially when the two have faced each other in debates -- including one co-sponsored by The Sun and Middlesex Community College -- it has often been a case of style over substance, where one offhand comment defines the entire conversation.

Tolman, who served as a state rep and senator from Watertown in the 1990s, said the lockdown of his town during the search for the alleged Boston Marathon bombers left him with a renewed sense of public service.

Tolman's signature accomplishment as a lawmaker was his lead in crafting first-in-the-nation legislation requiring tobacco companies to disclose their products' ingredients.

Healey, a member of Harvard's women's basketball team who played professionally in Europe, left a lucrative job with a private law firm in 2007 to join the attorney general's office.

Her crowning achievement there -- in addition to helping modify predatory terms of subprime loans -- was successfully arguing against the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court.


Their differences, though few, do exist.

Tolman has said he would use the AG's office as a "bully pulpit" to influence policy.

Healey said the AG's role is to be the people's lawyer, protecting the average citizen against powerful special interests.

On casino gambling, there's also a divide. Tolman supports it, primarily for the economic boost it will provide. Healey is both personally and professionally opposed.

Though Tolman has said his Statehouse colleagues referred to him as "a pain in the butt" on ethics, Healey has raised his association with an online gaming group as a potential conflict.

Tolman, who was previously listed as a business director for First Strike Games, has said he's no longer actively involved in the company, and would cut all ties if he's elected.

Both candidates certainly have the credentials to be attorney general.

However, The Sun believes Maura Healey's concept of the office more closely aligns with our view, and supports her candidacy in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.

The winner faces Republican John Miller of Winchester in the general election.