In secretary of state race, it’s experience vs. lived experience
Galvin stresses competence; Sullivan vows to restore trust in government
SECRETARY OF STATE William Galvin and Tanisha Sullivan engaged in a lively debate on Wednesday at which the incumbent urged voters to trust the knowledge and experience he has gained from 27 years on the job while the challenger promised to be less reactive and more proactive and use her “lived experience” to get out the vote and spur change.
The difference in approach was highlighted when GBH host Jim Braude asked whether the two candidates would disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.
Galvin said he would bar Trump if the former president was convicted of a crime. Sullivan, an attorney who also heads the Boston office of the NAACP, said she would bar Trump even if he isn’t convicted and deal with the inevitable court challenge.
The secretary blamed Beacon Hill for the slow pace of electoral and public records policy changes, while Sullivan said she would work with the Legislature to accomplish change or bypass it if necessary by enacting new laws via ballot questions.
“There are disparities but they’re not caused by the process,” Galvin insisted. “We cannot make it easier administratively to vote.”
Sullivan said making voting easy isn’t enough. “It doesn’t matter if folks are registered to vote if they don’t believe in the system,” she said. “We’ve got to address the very real issues in our communities – the lack of trust and the lack of faith in our government and in our democracy.”
She said she would lead the discussion to restore trust in the system. “I believe in convening people,” she said, and noted most of the work needs to be done in communities where people of color and “working folks” live.
Braude asked Sullivan if her race and gender were relevant to voters. She said her work experience as an attorney and a civil rights advocate is important, but so is her race and gender. “I bring my lived experience to this role as a Black woman, yes, a Black woman who is actively engaged in our communities,” she said.
Galvin said his experience is what the state needs now as the crucial 2024 national election looms on the horizon. “The most important issue is what’s going to happen in 2024. All the other things we care about are affected by the outcome of that election. We know that. And if we’re going to do something about it, we have to have someone there who understands in great detail the operations of elections. I do,” Galvin said.Braude mentioned two stories in CommonWealth – from 2017 and 2021 – that reported on minority hiring in Galvin’s office. In 2017, Galvin didn’t track his minority hiring and in 2021 he said 12.5 percent of his staff were minorities, the lowest percentage among the state’s five constitutional officers.
At the debate, Galvin said 16 percent of his office’s workers are now people of color. The secretary said the percentage would be higher if his office didn’t have to absorb workers he did not hire himself from the various registries of deeds. He said a majority of his directors are women, including one who is Black.