DARTMOUTH — The current Bristol County District Attorney faced off against a challenger for his seat in the democratic primary this fall in a spirited and often heated debate at Dartmouth Town Hall Tuesday night.

Incumbent D.A. Thomas Quinn III took on challenger and former prosecutor Shannon McMahon, discussing police brutality, recidivism, and other issues.

McMahon is running against Quinn in the September 6 primary — and with no Republican challengers in the general election, the winner of the primary will be the next D.A.

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A former assistant District Attorney, McMahon announced her run for the top county prosecutor spot this spring.

Quinn has held the seat since his appointment in 2015 by outgoing Governor Deval Patrick and Governor Charlie Baker.

Since then, he has run unopposed for the position twice.

On Tuesday, Quinn touted his office's successful prosecutions of Aaron Hernandez and Michelle Carter and initiatives focusing on elder abuse and solving cold cases, including at least two rapes and a homicide.

He said the biggest issue facing the court system is the backlog caused by the COVID pandemic, noting that his office has focused on moving cases through the system "so that all parties can have their day in court."

But McMahon disagreed.

"The first step in fixing any problem is admitting that there is one," she said. "We have a problem here in Bristol County, and it's not just the backlog, like my opponent says. We have major problems."

McMahon went on to list problems including the drug crisis and gun violence.

"It feels like every single morning I turn on the news now, there's another shooting, there's another stabbing," she said. "Meanwhile, my opponent is gonna tell you that they're doing a fantastic job. But in reality, crime's up. It's way up."

"Our neighborhoods are not safe right now," she added.

At times, the debate became personal.

"She's grotesquely exaggerating her qualifications," Quinn said, adding that he was not aware of her history as a criminal defense lawyer and repeating several times that McMahon was "making things up."

Meanwhile McMahon suggested that the current leadership is not working.

"My opponent's idea of, let's just prosecute, put them in the house of corrections for three to six months, let them come out and do the exact same crime again — it's almost like he gets paid on commission," she said.

Quinn also described how McMahon was asked to resign from the D.A.'s office due to an arrest on domestic assault charges.

"Tuesday night, highly intoxicated," he alleged, adding that McMahon would not cooperate with police and told authorities she was an assistant D.A. in an apparent attempt to abuse her authority.

"Now, people make mistakes," Quinn said. "But that conduct is clearly disturbing."

He went on to call her "unfit" for the District Attorney role.

McMahon dismissed many of Quinn's statements, saying that no one was drunk that evening and calling the situation a "deeply personal" one that took place when her husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

"I've known [Quinn] a while, I knew this would come up," she said. "And that says something about his character."

"This is him using a personal trauma, a personal family trauma, for political gain," she added.

Both candidates shook hands at the end of the debate.

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