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Election Day is less than two weeks away, and Massachusetts voters are set to choose winners in a number of high-profile races, most notably the gubernatorial contest between Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl. Also on the table are multiple important propositions, including one that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses and another that would impose an additional 4% tax on income over $1 million.
One race flying under the radar, however, is the contest for the office of The Secretary of the Commonwealth. Longtime incumbent William F. Galvin, a Democrat, is facing off against relative newcomer Rayla Campbell, a Republican.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth’s job description is broad: it encompasses the maintenance of public records, storage of historical data, preservation of historical sites, registration of corporations, and the filing and distribution of regulations and public documents. On top of that, and perhaps most importantly, the Secretary of the Commonwealth also oversees the administration of elections in Massachusetts.
How do Galvin and Campbell stack up to one another? Where does the race stand now? Read on for a breakdown of each candidate.
Galvin has held the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth since 1995, and served as a state representative before that. If Galvin secures an eighth term in the position, he will surpass the record for longest-serving secretary of state in Massachusetts currently held by Frederic Cook. Cook served for 28 years, from 1921 to 1949, and was the last Republican to hold the office.
Galvin, who turned 72 in September, is touting his long tenure and the experience that comes with it as a positive. When he announced his intention to run for reelection back in January, Galvin said that the expertise and management skills he’s acquired in the role helped secure record voter turnout in recent years.
During the pandemic, Galvin enthusiastically supported early voting, mail-in voting, and same-day voter registration. In the Democratic primary race earlier this year, Galvin’s opponent Tanisha Sullivan attacked him over the issue of same-day voter registration. This has been a possibility in Maine for 50 years, she said, and questioned Galvin on why it was still not an option for Massachusetts residents.
Advocates for same-day registration argue that it would be an effective tool in increasing voter turnout, particularly concerning young voters and minority voters. Some opponents, which include Democrats, contend that the new form of registration would put an extra burden on already-overworked municipal election workers. Local officials are now under even more stress as they work to fulfill growing numbers of records requests from people who believe the unsubstantiated claim that the 2020 Presidential election was “stolen.”
In January, lawmakers voted to direct Galvin to conduct a comprehensive study of what it would take for same-day registration to be implemented across the state. Sullivan said that Galvin did not push hard enough for the measure on Beacon Hill.
Galvin was given a tough contest by Sullivan, a corporate lawyer and the president of NAACP Boston. She attempted to paint Galvin as anti-abortion, but he pushed back firmly in an interview with WGBH.
“Her assertions are based on voting histories going back to the ’80s,” Galvin told the station. “I’ve made very clear during the debates we’ve had that I support — fully — the right of women to make decisions for themselves. … Her characterization, I reject completely.”
Interestingly, Sullivan won the state Democratic party’s official endorsement over Galvin at the party’s nominating convention in June. In a notable speech, Sullivan railed against Galvin for being out of touch with the times, and for causing Massachusetts to fall back from a national leadership role when it comes to voting access.
Sullivan gained support from 62% of the delegates at the convection. But in the end, Democratic voters chose Galvin’s experience. He beat Sullivan by a whopping 70.3% to 29.7%. When Galvin ran against then-Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim in the Democratic primary in 2018, Zakim also bested Galvin at the convention, but lost to him handily on election day.
Galvin’s familiar presence and strong rhetoric on the importance of election integrity combined to vault him over Sullivan in the primary.
“We see what’s happening in the rest of the country, where they’re making it more difficult for people voting. They’re making it harder. That’s not the American way,” Galvin said at a campaign stop in August, according to WGBH.
The same factors appear to be putting Galvin in a position to win once again on Nov. 8. In a recent Suffolk university poll, Galvin was found to be leading Campbell by 27 points.
Campbell, the first Black woman to be a candidate for Secretary of the Commonwealth, ran uncontested in the Republican primary. A native of Scituate, Campbell worked as a dental assistant before making a career in insurance and claims management. She ran as a write-in congressional candidate in 2020.
Campbell describes herself as a “rule of law Republican” who is fighting against voter suppression, which she argues comes in the form of “polluted propagandist” media, misinformation, and the belief among average people that elections are preordained and that their votes won’t be counted properly. She also believes that “a flavor of communism and socialism” has crept into Massachusetts politics, which Campbell pledges to fight against.
Campbell has made cultural issues a key part of her platform, particularly those centered on sexual orientation — and topics surrounding — being taught to younger children. Campbell made headlines in May when she used vulgar language during a speech at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Speaking at the Massachusetts Republican Nominating Convention, Campbell said that members of the party should be more concerned with what their children are being taught in schools.
“I don’t think it’s nice when they’re telling your 5-year-old that he can [perform a sex act on] another 5-year-old,” she said, according to a video posted on Twitter from a convention attendee. “Do you?”
Afterward, Diehl said that the language Campbell chose was not appropriate or reflective of how the Republican nominees would conduct themselves in office. Campbell did not provide evidence for her claim.
In June, Campbell interrupted a story time event featuring a drag performer hosted by the Holbrook Public Library. In a video posted to her official Facebook page, parents can be seen shielding their children from Campbell’s camera using rainbow flags. Similar incidents across the state drew concern from drag performers and local librarians.
At an education forum in Newburyport this month centered on the topic of Social Emotional Learning. When Dean of Multicultural Education at the Governor’s Academy Edward Carson spoke in favor of books like “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, Campbell reportedly cut him off.
“They want to take our men and put them into skirts and cut off our daughter’s breasts!” she yelled, according to The Daily News of Newburyport.
A new Campbell ad airing on WCVB that centers on similar topics drew a disclaimer from the station before it was shown to viewers, something that experts say is incredibly rare, The Boston Globe reported. The 30-second spot includes images from the graphic novel “Gender Queer: a Memoir” and a voiceover from Campbell. She asks if viewers want their children “reading child pornography.”
But before the ad, WCVB reportedly aired a disclaimer that said the spot was “not endorsed” by the station, and that “under federal law, WCVB is obligated to air the following ad without censorship,” according to the Globe.
“Please be advised the ad contains language and/or images that viewers may find offensive,” it read.
Although much of Campbell’s public activity has centered around these topics, she also made clear her opinions on election-related issues. In an interview with NBC10 Boston, Campbell voiced her opposition to early voting and mail-in voting.
“We vote in-person, we vote on one day — it’s Election Day, not month,” Campbell told the station. “And we should be hand-counting those paper ballots, not relying on machines to do a simple job.”
She also told NBC10 that she would push to make election day a Saturday, in an effort to make voting more convenient for residents.
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