BOSTON – In Massachusetts, the secretary of state serves as the top elections official, public information officer and securities regulator, along with roles overseeing corporate and lobbyist registration and the state archives.
Boston Democrat Josh Zakim wants to add to that list, making the case that Bay State voters want a secretary of state who will stand up for their values and push back against the Republican White House.
Zakim, a Boston city councilor challenging incumbent Secretary William Galvin in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary, has made issues not directly within the office's purview – such as immigration and abortion policy – talking points on the campaign trail.
"A lot of battles that we thought we'd already fought and won are teetering on the precipice, and it's the responsibility of every elected official to stand up," Zakim said in a recent interview. "To say that's not in your job description, that's not sufficient these days."
A video Zakim plans to show at this weekend's Democratic Party convention in Worcester calls for "fresh ideas" in the secretary's office, "from protecting a woman's right to choose to standing up to the Trump Administration's attacks on immigrants to making sure everyone has access to the ballot."
Zakim said President Donald Trump espouses views that are "anathema to the people of Massachusetts," and that the secretary, as a constitutional officer and statewide elected official, has the opportunity "to be a leader among others."
"When people in our communities, a women's right to choose, our immigrant neighbors are under attack, everyone needs to be standing up for them," Zakim said. "That's, at core, what I think public service is about, protecting and defending everyone."
Some Zakim backers have pointed to these broader issues as part of the reason for their support.
In an endorsement announcement earlier this month, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern referenced his own work to make Cambridge a sanctuary city and Zakim's authorship of Boston's Trust Act, which restricts local law enforcement from holding someone solely on a federal immigration detainer. "I'm looking forward to working with Josh more on these important issues," McGovern said.
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins also cited the Trust Act in his Zakim endorsement Thursday.
Clare Kelly, a former executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, is circulating letters among convention delegates in which she points to Galvin's votes as a state representative and 2014 endorsement by the pro-life advocacy group Democrats for Life to argue that Galvin's "record on a women's [sic] right to choose shows me he will not be a leader and fight for a women's access to health care."
"At a time when our values are under attack by President Trump, we must elect leaders who will stand up for our progressive values," the letter says.
The letter does not mention Zakim, but asks delegates to keep Galvin's past votes and support from pro-life groups in mind as they vote this weekend.
"I think that because of where we are nationally right now, we have to have elected officials that are going to be a strong champion for women because we don't really know what the president is going to do," Kelly told the News Service.
'An Effort to Distract'
Galvin campaign spokesman Brian McNiff called the letter a "last-minute attempt to distract from the issues of the office" and said Galvin is "proud of his record for advocating for women."
"There is no single instance in his record as secretary of any action taken that would in any way minimize women's rights," McNiff said. "As far as the party goes, he has openly supported pro-choice candidates, among them Lois Pines for attorney general about 20 years ago and Martha Coakley, among others. As far as votes in the Legislature, he hasn't cast any for 30 years. This is 2018. This is simply an effort to distract from the fact that his opponent has no qualifications for the office."
McNiff said Galvin did not solicit the 2014 Democrats for Life endorsement and "didn't know it happened." Galvin had no primary opponent in that race and last faced a Democrat challenger in 2006.
Galvin was elected to the House in 1975 and served there until leaving to run unsuccessfully for treasurer in 1990. He has been secretary of state since 1995.
The secretary's office leads the state's effort on the census, and Galvin in that role has been an outspoken critic of Trump.
Galvin has repeatedly accused Trump of attempting to "sabotage" the 2020 Census and diminish counts in states like Massachusetts with large immigrant populations, through moves like the addition of a question on citizenship status.
Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank endorsed Galvin Wednesday in an email to Galvin's supporters, also pointing to the national political landscape.
"At a time when the investor protections of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Obama Fiduciary Rule are under attack, we need someone of his expertise and accomplishment to protect consumers and investors," wrote Frank, who said he would be seconding Galvin's nomination at the convention.
Meanwhile, Zakim this week announced the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and state Sens. Julian Cyr and Joseph Boncore.
The winner of the Democratic primary will go on to face Republican Anthony Amore and Green-Rainbow candidate Juan Sanchez in the general election.
Amore, of Swampscott, sought to distinguish himself from the Democrat contenders in a Boston Herald Radio interview this week.
"I want to get in there, get into office, and want to effectively administer government, and that's hard work," Amore said in the May 29 interview. "You won't hear candidates talking about that. You'll hear them talking about being an activist or some such thing."
Zakim said he thinks involvement on other progressive issues can "go hand and hand" with the responsibilities of the secretary's office, like "expanding and protecting and modernizing the voting process here in Massachusetts."
"This isn't a situation where it's OK to sit on the sidelines, for anybody, and certainly not for statewide elected officials," he said.