The gloves are off in race for secretary of state

Galvin, Zakim go toe-to-toe on voter registration and dark money

THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY race for the normally staid office of the Secretary of State is turning into one of the most bruising battles of season. About the only thing missing in the one and only televised debate between incumbent William Galvin and challenger Josh Zakim was headgear and eight-ounce gloves.

The debate on Greater Boston, which only occurred after Galvin agreed at the last minute when it appeared Zakim, a Boston city councilor, would have the camera all to himself, featured charges and counter-charges over successes and failures as well as a good measure of snarky asides.

Jim Braude, who has become one of the best moderators of such encounters, kept the two on track but allowed wide latitude for the pair to show their complete distaste for one another. And make no mistake, this one became personal, at least for Galvin.

The normally dour Galvin, dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” years ago for his propensity to roam the State House halls as a state representative during late nights, was his normally dour self but added a good amount of angry animation. Galvin toed the line on bullying when he demanded Zakim take a “people’s pledge” to refuse to accept help from “dark money”

“Just say yes,” Galvin repeatedly demanded of Zakim, slapping the table for emphasis each time as Zakim was responding.

Zakim skirted the issue by pointing out that Galvin accepts donations from employees and people who have tax credit requests before the Historial Commission, which is in the secretary’s office. He also charged Galvin has been using his office as a campaign arm by making videos and ads touting voter registration efforts.

When Galvin insisted “one has nothing to do with the other,” Zakim shot back “It has a lot to do with it.”

Galvin repeated touted his accomplishments over six terms as secretary and at times one had to wonder if he really was actually the person running the state. At one point he claimed to “override the governor” on election reform funding before acknowledging it was actually the Legislature that had that power.

The 34-year-old Zakim, who was all of 10 when Galvin was first elected secretary and who wasn’t even born when the Brighton state representative started his public career, definitely has Galvin on the run after winning the convention endorsement back in June.

But he took some hits from the seasoned pol, who pointed out that while Zakim was ranting about voter access and the date of the primary the day after Labor Day, he didn’t even vote in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Zakim said he was in college in Pennsylvania in 2004 though he never answered why, when he was back living in the state, he didn’t cast a ballot in 2006.

While Galvin looked a little like Richard Nixon in his first televised debate, Zakim came across as a little too jumpy, rapidly firing off his lines and talking points in staccato fashion to make sure he hit all the salient points.

Galvin took credit for anything and everything that has been successful in his office, but he blamed others for failing to enact measures such as early voting.

“Every major progressive change that has occurred in Massachusetts election laws has come about because of me,” Galvin bragged.

But Zakim said Galvin was only a “recent convert” on many of the issues such as same-day and mail-in registration and weekend voting, pushed by the first real primary challenge in a dozen years.

“For Bill to say he has been a proponent of every progressive electoral reform is absolutely false,” said Zakim, who repeatedly referred to the secretary by his first name rather than his title. “He led the charge in the state Legislature against mail-in voter registration claiming it would lead to fraud and illegal voting.”

Zakim repeated his oft-repeated claims about Galvin’s voting record in the Legislature against abortion to burnish his own progressive bona fides but once again failed to say why such stances matter in an office that has nothing to do with abortion laws.

But Galvin may have taken his biggest hit when Zakim brought up the arrest of a contractor in the secretary’s office who was charged with securities fraud, which happens to be an area the office has oversight. A State House News story earlier in the day revealed that M. Jay Herod worked as an IT consultant with an office in the Ashburton Building for nine years.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

Galvin said he fired Herod the day of the indictment in April but his association with the office was never revealed prior to the News Service story. Zakim wanted to know what access the man had to securities information.

It’s a story that bears watching. As does this campaign.