SALEM — Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim popped up at the Salem Commuter Rail Station Wednesday afternoon to greet commuters and register voters as part of a campaign kickoff for secretary of state.
It was the first of two stops for the married 34-year-old on the North Shore, including an appearance at the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee meeting later in the evening.
Zakim represents District 8 in Boston, a district that includes a diverse set of neighborhoods from Beacon Hill to Mission Hill.
"We have a real challenge ahead of us," he said of the three months to get out his name out statewide.
Zakim is challenging long-time Secretary of State Bill Galvin in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary.
Zakim's profile was raised earlier this month when the Democratic Party convention in Worcester endorsed him over Galvin. Both will go head-to-head in the primary.
Zakim said despite his famous name — Zakim's father is the late religious and civil rights leader Leonard Zakim, who died from cancer in 1999, and for whom the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge was named — he notes that Galvin's name has been on a statewide ballot for nearly three decades.
"I feel like he could take the secretary of state's office to the next level," said Marsha Finkelstein of Salem, one of Zakim's volunteers on the platform, referring to issues such as automatic and same-day voter registration. She's the former chairwoman of the Salem Democratic City Committee and a member of the Democratic State Committee.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face Swampscott Republican Anthony Amore, who does not have a challenger in the Republican primary. He's the director of security and chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and an author with a background in federal aviation security.
Most commuters streaming off the train walked right by Zakim, though he did manage to greet and hand out a few of his campaign cards.
One young man asked Zakim if he supported Gov. Charlie Baker, who lives in neighboring Swampscott.
"I do not," said Zakim, and the young man said he would vote for Zakim.
Zakim said he could work with Baker, a Republican who is seeking his second term.
"We could certainly work together. Listen, I certainly have disagreements on some of Governor Baker's policies, some of the things he has done in office. I think, particularly, we are standing here at a T station, I think a lack of investment in the T is unfortunate," Zakim said.
When asked about Baker's attempts to get his arms around the agency, Zakim said, "at the end of the day, there needs to be significant investment made. You can do as efficient as you want, and we want to be efficient, but there's billions of dollars of investment of infrastructure that needs to be gone into the T."
He criticized Baker for rejoining a program that allows state police to work with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement. Zakim authored the Trust Act in Boston, the city's sanctuary city bill, which restricts local law enforcement from holding someone solely on a federal immigration detainer. He was critical of Baker for sending National Guard troops, a helicopter and two crew members, to the border with Mexico at the behest of President Donald Trump to cut down on illegal border crossings.
Zakim is running for an office that requires the wearing of many hats most voters do not know about. The secretary of state is the top elections official, public information officer and securities regulator.
The office is the supervisor of public records, and registers corporations and lobbyists, among other things.
The office has been held by Galvin for six terms. He's a former state representative who last faced a primary challenge in 2006.
Zakim has won the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D- Salem. Moulton has been busy seeking to recruit service-oriented leaders, many who have served in the military, to run for Congress across the country.
“We need fresh ideas and a new approach to solving problems, and Josh will bring that to the Secretary of State’s office,” Moulton said in a statement. “Amidst the Trump Administration’s efforts to restrict voting access and voter protections, we need a state leader who will be a national leader on protecting our fundamental right to vote, and that’s what I believe Josh can do.”
Zakim said he was grateful for the endorsement.
"You know, he's had the experience, I think, standing up to the status quo, putting your hat in the ring when it's not the easiest thing to do, taking on a long-time incumbent," Zakim said, referring to Moulton, the Harvard-educated Marblehead native who served four tours in Iraq in the Marines. Moulton beat former long-time Salem Congressman John Tierney in the Democratic primary in 2014.
Zakim has made issues such voting access, immigration and standing up to the Trump administration key in his campaign. He said Massachusetts should be a leader on voting access, but it is not.
He said there are 17 states and the District of Columbia that have same-day registration, and 13 states that have automatic registration. Massachusetts does not have either, he said. He estimates there are nearly 700,000 eligible Bay State residents who are not registered to vote. He favors automatic registration, the ability for voter registration to take place among other state agencies, for instance, if a resident renews their license at the RMV or applies for MassHealth.
"There is just so much more Mass. should be doing," he said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.