STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — While some Democrats continue to watch Attorney General Maura Healey for signs that she'll change her mind about running for governor, Healey has drawn her first challenger for re-election in 2018.

Cape Cod attorney James "Jay" McMahon plans to formally announce his campaign for attorney general this weekend at a chowder cook-off contest at the Westport home of Mary Lou Daxland, leader of the conservative Massachusetts Republican Assembly.

He will be the first candidate to announce a statewide campaign for one of the five statewide constitutional offices up for grabs next year that is not held by Gov. Charlie Baker.

While Baker has already drawn several would-be Democratic challengers for governor, no one yet has stepped forward yet to contend against the incumbent lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general, auditor or secretary of state, assuming all five seek re-election.

McMahon, who has a law practice in Bourne, did not immediately return a call and an email seeking comment, but in an email sent to an undisclosed list over the weekend he said he has been "very busy campaigning and meeting with small groups of concerned citizens."

"The time has now come for me to officially and formally announce my candidacy for the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General; and I plan to do so this coming Saturday...," McMahon said, indicating that he planned to record his speech in order to distribute it to the media after the event.

The chowder cook-off is a fundraising event for the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, which bills itself as the "Republican Wing of the Republican Party."

Assembly president Daxland has clashed with Baker since his 2014 campaign and confirmed McMahon's planned appearance at her house to make his campaign official. Daxland did not support Baker in 2014, and became a target of the governor's last year when he successfully ran a candidate against her for re-election to the Republican State Committee.

"One reason we're supporting him - he's conservative," Daxland told the News Service about McMahon.

Though MARA does not officially endorse candidates until they have qualified for the ballot, Daxland said that McMahon believes in the same "common sense principles" that the assembly stands for, including adherence to the Second Amendment and opposition to making Massachusetts a "sanctuary state," an idea that is opposed by conservatives who favor a stricter stance against illegal immigration.

"Jay is very personable. I think in a debate he will just annihilate her. He's an attorney that can put a debate on. He's on point and he really knows his stuff," Daxland said.

Healey has said repeatedly that she plans to seek a second four-year term in 2018, and will not run for governor. In 2014, Healey defeated a better known Democrat, Warren Tolman, in the statewide primary before going on to handily defeat Republican attorney John Miller in her first campaign for public office.

"Attorney General Healey is proud of her record of results standing up for the people of Massachusetts to advance economic security for all, to aggressively combat the opiate crisis, and to protect people's rights, and the public safety of our communities," Healey political advisor David Guarino said in a statement.

McMahon lives in Bourne with his wife Shelley. According to a biography on his website, the couple had five children, including two in college, and lost their oldest son to opioid addiction.

He says fighting the opioid crisis will be "first priority," and he faulted Healey for "throwing some money at the problem" and leaving local government to deal with the effects of addiction. He specifically mentioned a visit Healey made to the Cape after winning a settlement with CVS and Walgreens to distribute money to local schools for addiction education.

"We would be better off if she just did nothing. She needs to just stop with whatever she is doing!" he wrote on the web page.

McMahon is calling for better cooperation with federal law enforcement to stop the illegal trafficking of opiates and fentanyl across borders, to "be brutal" with street-level sellers of narcotics and for better treatment programs for addicts, including "involuntary commitment."

"Needle exchange programs do not resolve this. 'Safe shoot- up places' does not resolve this. We need to give quality care which requires long term, much more time than we've been committed to as a society up to now," he wrote on his website.

McMahon's candidacy, in some ways, is a microcosm of difficulties Baker could face in a re-election bid next year despite his popularity in poll after poll.

Baker supported Healey's efforts to step up enforcement of the state's assault weapons ban that enraged Second Amendment activists, and could be forced to choose between supporting a Republican candidate with whom he differs on policy or trying to distance himself from other Republicans running for office.

McMahon does not yet have a campaign account set up with the state, while Healey's latest filing shows her with more than $1.2 million in the bank for a re-election campaign.

A spokeman for the Massachusetts Republican Party did not return a call seeking comment on McMahon's candidacy. While Republican primaries have been somewhat rare in down-ballot statewide races in recent years, it's still early enough for one or more GOP candidates, potentially with the backing of the Baker's political apparatus, to enter the field for attorney general.

--Matt Murphy, State House News Service

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