Keir Bradford-Grey, the former head of Philadelphia’s public defense lawyers, became the third candidate to enter the race for the Democratic nomination for the state’s top law enforcement official.
PoliticsPA had the opportunity to talk with the 48-year-old who is making her first venture into politics.
How did a girl from Boston end up going to college in Albany, Ga.?
“Well, I got reached out to by the (Albany State) athletic coach, who was the basketball and volleyball coach, and she asked me if I wanted to go to school for free on scholarship. And my mom said, ‘she’ll be there.’
My parents didn’t go to college. So this was a golden opportunity and I jumped on it. Well, my mother jumped on it. Because I knew nothing about Albany, Georgia. But it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
So I started basketball there and I ended up dropping off the team to play volleyball. Probably the only thing I regret in my life. I didn’t play the full season of basketball but my coach allowed me to keep my scholarship by playing volleyball.
When did your interest in the law begin?
When I was a young girl. I always dreamed of being someone like Claire Huxtable, controversy aside of course. When my mom and her co-workers were fired from their job, there was a lawyer who stood up for them and got the jobs back. I just saw the power of an attorney who knows the law and uses it for people to protect people, to help people. And I mean, that stuck in my head. My first teacher (at Albany State) was a woman lawyer and her encouragement just really gave me the boost that I needed to say, okay, I can do this. The seed was planted by the images, but the spark was by someone who I can actually, tangibly ask those questions and she gave me a roadmap.”
What motivated you to make the move into politics?
“The motivation is leadership and looking at opportunities to lead from positions that have real tremendous opportunity to make impact in major ways. The role of the Attorney General is probably one of the most unique roles where you can impact the improvements and quality of life for people in so many different ways. Not just law enforcement, in terms of public safety, but also looking at quality of life issues that impact people every day from achieving their best. I want to be able to use my perspective, my vantage point, my leadership capabilities, my legal expertise, to be a part of advancing better opportunities for all communities.
“Well, the seat is open. It becomes open once every eight years and honestly the timing for me was perfect. I’m an empty nester. I have my understanding of who I am as a leader right now, having led two really wonderful institutions. One being the fourth largest in the country with a staff of 500 and a budget of over $50 million and I know what I was able to do. I know my track record says in both places that I’ve been able to lead.”
What lessons can you bring forward from your time leading the Public Defenders’ Association?
“Oh, man, the lessons of buy-in and narration and making sure that you’re really clear in the reasons why you want to advance things but also including so many voices into that process. Knowing that I have a very broad vision of what I want to do. I know I’m going to need a collaborative army of different people with different expertise to get it done.
I led an office that was not one considered the most powerful of our justice system actors. And we were still able to push in advance and get things done from our vantage point, and that just means it took a lot of strategy, a lot of patience, a lot of open mindedness, a lot of humility, a lot of pain, a lot of joy. That’s all part of the process and I’m no longer afraid of the process.”
What would be your priorities as Attorney General?
“There probably will be a number of things and issues with respect to just making sure everyone has access to democracy and their rights to vote and are unencumbered. That’s probably going to be central during this period of time when we’re looking at the issues.
Making sure that women have a fundamental right to access to health care for whatever they need. Being a woman, that’s very personal to me. I have daughters and I have people that I want to make sure that they have the ability to get the quality care they need, especially with maternal health care for black women, being such a dismal state, where they are dying at a higher rate than any other demographic. This is something that I really care deeply about.
We’re in an era in time, where violence is high and gun violence is high. The role can do a lot as a partner in dealing with illegal gun distribution. Working to push gun manufacturers to do some different things in terms of making sure that guns don’t end up in the wrong hands.
So there’s so much I can lend, my scope of work, my understanding of the people who have been in the system and why and how they do things. I think it’d be a dream team approach to making sure that we are successful in our prosecutions and our efforts to raise awareness about issues that impact all communities, and that includes communities that may not have always been included in other people’s vantage points.
Your response to GOP claims of a two-tiered system of justice.
“We’ve always thought that certain people didn’t fare out well in the justice system. And they definitely weren’t the people in power, the people that I know, had always gotten a different view of justice, were more of the vulnerable populations of people.
So I just find it very interesting that this conversation is going on, but I do welcome the opportunity to think about how we can really make sure that there is one system of justice for everyone, and that the justice system is used for what it’s supposed to be used for, and nothing more.”
How does a Democratic woman from Philadelphia get statewide support for Attorney General?
“Get out there and bust my butt to meet everyone I can and let people hear who I am for me, hear my message. And I work with anyone who would be inviting me into the space to talk about the issues that are important to them, and just build coalitions across the state about things that are truly impacting people. An attorney general’s office can have a lot of tools to deal with those things. I’m a very authentic person, I care deeply about people, and I just want to help in any way I can. And I’m committed and passionate in my efforts to doing so.”
Thoughts on the possibility of being the first Black AG in PA.
“I’ve been a first in my other two posts as well. So this being a first is not new to me. I just want to make sure that I’m not the last and that means that there’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.”
Do you consider yourself a progressive or moderate Democrat?
“So I don’t like for people to put me in buckets that are neat and clean based on what they think those folks are. Here’s what I can say about myself. Progress is based on where you start. My track record has been once someone has had a track record of making progress, and places that they’ve led. If that leads people to believe they’re progressive then so be it. I just want to make sure that people know that I have a very practical approach that is very inclusive.”