The Primary Numbers: A New Secretary of State of Mind…
To some, the race for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of the Commonwealth could be the most hotly contested statewide race on the primary. Certainly, this blog thinks so. It pits the current Secretary, William Galvin, who has served since 1995, against Josh Zakim, a Boston City Councilor.
It was easy to dismiss this race early on as a serious, but ultimately hopeless challenge against a long-serving, well-respected, if curmudgeonly incumbent. However, Zakim has turned this into a real race, unexpectedly snatching the Democratic Party endorsement from Galvin. That hasn’t happened since 1982, two years before Zakim was born.
He called for reforms to voting, his marquee issue, as well as a more activist approach to all of the office’s responsibilities. We acknowledge Galvin’s work, as explained below, but we endorse Zakim in this race.
The Secretary’s principal job is administering the commonwealth’s elections. But as time has passed and the non-gubernatorial offices became more reliable Democratic than the governor’s office, many more duties have gone to the secretary of state among others. These includes securities investigations, public records oversight, and the state historic preservation programs.
Zakim has promised to revolutionize all of them. The son of a civil rights leader in Boston, Lenny Zakim—yes, the bridge is named after him—Josh Zakim has made voting the keystone of his platform. In short, he has committed to pushing any and all efforts to make voting and voter registration as accessible and available as possible.
We concede some opportunism in this position: Donald Trump runs the federal government and shows a commitment to rolling back voting access. He may be beating Jeff Sessions with a hickory switch today, but make no mistake this Justice Department is no friend to democracy.
Galvin is hardly anti-voting. He has pushed back against Trump’s anti-democratic impulses, to the extent the secretary’s office permits. Moreover, he has played a role in some recent voting improvements like 2016’s introduction of early voting.
However, we fear that these times do call for some more activism that Galvin has mustered. This blog takes no issue with incumbents by default, but we recognize the need to go on offense on voting and voter access. Galvin’s vice is not that he is an obstacle, but that he is insufficiently enthusiastic to embrace these changes. It will take that enthusiasm to fully implement the programs Galvin, Zakim and/or both support. Some will take constitutional amendments and thus time.
There’s another reason we support change. While Galvin has been a decent steward of the election system, time can lead to ossification. We trust Zakim will not just push legislative changes to voting laws, but also pressure local leaders who benefit from crummy turnout in municipal and non-presidential elections.
Getting more people to care about such elections is difficult enough. We know from our experience in Springfield that unofficial discouragement, if not suppression, is hollowing out our democracy here. No doubt this occur in Springfield’s peer cities, too.
We trust Zakim on this because he has pushed and passed ordinances to encourage voting in the Hub.
Elections and voting are but one part of the secretariat. However, Zakim has shown a commitment to continued improvements in the commonwealth’s still-lackluster public records law. Again, Galvin has made progress, but it took beatings from the press rather than his office to encourage legislative change.
Another area we are interested in is historic preservation. We do not fault Galvin for the Historic Commission caving to MGM some years ago. Yet, it did result in the destruction of the old YWCA. We must believe a more robust defense and execution of our historic preservation laws are possible.
Indeed, it may take upward pressure to get cities like Springfield to commit more than words—and the noble efforts of local historic boards—to save, restore and preserve our history for future generations.
This blog is never shy to lash the non-endorsed, but we mostly abstain from that here. Though Galvin’s comments about the impotence of city councils and nasty ads have irked this blog, we credit his career. However, we see no second act to his tenure at a time when our commonwealth demands it.
Thus, we endorse Josh Zakim for the Democratic nomination to Secretary of the Commonwealth.