Sullivan frames secretary of state run as ‘unique moment for our democracy’

The secretary of state position across the 50 states is not normally one that inflames deep passions or draws lots of attention when it comes to electing the person holding the office. But these are not normal times, and the usually rote business of running elections and certifying vote totals – the chief responsibility that goes with the job – has become a major fault line in US politics.

It is against that backdrop that Boston NAACP president Tanisha Sullivan launched her campaign on Tuesday for secretary of state in Massachusetts. “This is a unique moment for our democracy, and it is a very strong reminder of just how young and fragile our democracy is, and in this moment we need urgent action,” Sullivan, a Democrat, said in an interview. 

The assaults on voting rights in many states and the failure of Congress to advance new voting rights legislation are what bring urgency to these issues, said Sullivan, an attorney who has worked for Boston area pharmaceutical companies and also served a stint as chief equity officer for the Boston Public Schools. Although Massachusetts has not seen movement on efforts to restrict voting access, Sullivan said there is still work to be done here to expand the democratic process, citing the state’s failure to make permanent the pandemic-era changes that allowed for mail-in ballots.

Secretary of State William Galvin, a six-term Democratic incumbent, has yet to announce whether he’ll seek another term this fall. He has said he first wants to secure passage of a measure changing the date of this year’s primary as well as vote-by-mail legislation. A bill that the House expects to vote on today, and the Senate will vote on next week, would set the primary for September 6. Galvin did not return a phone message on Tuesday, but he has hinted recently at running again. “I believe I still have work to do,” he told Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky last week.  

Along with serving as the state’s chief election official, the office oversees the state’s public records law as well as securities regulations and lobbyist activity. Sullivan isn’t sure about extending the public records law to the Legislature and governor’s office – Massachusetts is the only state in which both of those branches are exempt from the law. “I believe it’s a conversation we need to have,” she said of proposals to eliminate the exemptions. 

Galvin shares Sullivan’s support for permanent vote-by-mail legislation as well as same-day voter registration, the two biggest measures being backed by voting-rights advocates in the state. 

Should Galvin run for a seventh term, it’s hard to avoid the parallels that would set up between a race against Sullivan and the 2018 Democratic primary that saw then-Boston city councilor Ayanna Pressley upend longtime incumbent congressman Michael Capuano. Just as Pressley became the first Black woman to win a congressional seat in the state, Sullivan would, if elected, be the first woman and first person of color to hold the secretary of state’s office. 

Pressley never attacked Capuano’s record directly and conceded that she and the liberal former Somerville mayor would vote the same on almost everything that came before the US House. Instead, she argued that it was time for new representation from someone bringing a “new lens” to the issues facing the district and country as a whole. 

When asked where Galvin has fallen short or where she would differ with him on issues, Sullivan, a 47-year-old Hyde Park resident, also demurred and spoke more broadly about her candidacy, which she said will be informed by “a life experience that is different.” 

“I have deep respect for Bill Galvin and his service,” she said. “I’m not running against Bill Galvin. I am running in order to bring a fresh perspective, to help usher in a new era in our government as we seek to expand democracy, and we seek to ensure a more inclusive and vibrant democracy.” 

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

New school testing approach: Gov. Charlie Baker urges schools to adopt a new testing regime centered around pooled testing and a once-a-week rapid test at home. Administration officials say the new approach is far less time consuming for school nurses than tracking down close contacts of those who test positive and testing them five days in a row. Read more.

$55 million injection: The House and Senate seem intent on passing legislation authorizing $25 million for COVID testing, $5 million for vaccine promotion, and $25 million for masks even though Gov. Charlie Baker questions the need. Read more.

Strong December for casinos: The three Massachusetts casinos end the year with a bang, reporting nearly $100 million in revenue in December. Read more.

OPINION

Making room for everyone: Conductor Ronald Braunstein and Dr. Blaise Aguirre explain why they are inviting anyone struggling with mental illness to a concert entitled “Stigma-Free at Boston Symphony Hall.” Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

State House Majority Leader Claire Cronin will be sworn in as US ambassador to Ireland on Wednesday from the House Chamber, where she will also give her farewell address. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Anti-vaccine-mandate protesters have moved on from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s house in Roslindale – and have instead been shouting outside the South Boston home of City Council president Ed Flynn. (Boston Herald

Wu is one of several new mayors across the country whose early days in office have been marked by vitriolic denunciations of municipal COVID policies. (Politico

The Worcester City Council is considering whether to impose an eviction moratorium, over the objection of landlords. (Telegram & Gazette)

Workers who help the homeless in Worcester say they are frustrated that other towns are dropping homeless people off in the city, rather than providing the services to help them in their own town. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Unlike Boston, Northampton officials say they have no plans to implement a vaccine mandate to gain access to indoor public spaces, saying there is no scientific evidence it would significantly hinger transmission of the Omicron variant. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) In a commentary piece, Robert Weir disagrees. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

New York Attorney General Letitia James seeks court permission to question Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and his son Donald Jr. in connection with alleged improper valuations of assets used to obtain tax deductions. (Associated Press)

ELECTIONS

Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, citing a Maura Healey “confidant,” says the two-term attorney general has decided to run for governor

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said he’s “considering” a run for Suffolk County district attorney. Kevin Hayden, named recently by Gov. Charlie Baker to fill the seat vacated by Rachael Rollins, has not yet said whether he’ll run for a four-year term this fall. (Boston Herald

EDUCATION

Former acting Boston mayor Kim Janey is named a spring fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute for Politics. According to the announcement, Janey will lead a study group with the working title of “Racial Justice and Recovery: Leading Cities to a More Equitable Future.”

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Boston area housing market set new records in 2021 for sales volumes and prices. (Boston Globe

TRANSPORTATION

The US Department of Transportation is sending Massachusetts $1.2 billion over the next five years to fix its bridges, through a new infrastructure law that will net Massachusetts a total of more than $9 billion. (Salem News)

The MBTA could see fare evasion costs increase by $30 million under a new $935 million automated fare collection system, according to a new analysis by the Pioneer Institute. (Boston Herald

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

US Supreme Court justices, in oral arguments, seem to suggest that Boston was wrong in refusing a request to fly a Christian flag outside Boston City Hill. (Associated Press)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy offers his take on media restrictions at Mass. and Cass and possible protest restrictions in front of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s house. (GBH)

PASSINGS

Mike Jensen, a Gloucester native who became the chief financial correspondent for NBC News, dies at 87. (Gloucester Daily Times