Massachusetts’ Secretary Of The Commonwealth Race Wasting No Time Getting Ugly

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By Matt Murphy

BOSTON — Secretary of State William Galvin hasn’t had a primary opponent in over a decade, and it appears that Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim’s challenge this year isn’t sitting well with the six-term incumbent.


Hours after Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera endorsed Zakim two weeks ago, Galvin called the mayor to voice his displeasure with the decision.

The conversation, according to Rivera, devolved into a heated exchange during which both men cursed at one another and Galvin accused Rivera of disloyalty, suggesting that the mayor owed him his political career.

“Verbatim, he said, ‘I made you mayor.’ You don’t forget words like that,” Rivera said.

The call from Galvin to Rivera’s cellphone came the night Rivera announced that he would be endorsing Zakim. The caller ID on the mayor’s cell showed a 617 area code, but the rest of the number was blocked, a sign, Rivera said, that the person on the other end of the line was someone important.

Rivera said that up until that night, on Feb. 16, he had never spoken to Galvin on the phone, but tried to make pleasantries with the secretary. Galvin quickly made clear he was unhappy that Rivera had taken sides against him, but it was that one comment in particular that got under Rivera’s skin.

“He commenced to make hay about my endorsing Josh, which is not unpredictable, but what really got me shocked is that he said he made me mayor. He didn’t come knock doors for me. I’m pretty sure my team is the reason we won that first election by 81 votes,” Rivera said. “Second, I’m not sure the state’s election official can claim that. I think he proceeded to say he sent people up here to make the election fair and I said, ‘That’s your job.'”

Rivera continued, “If I had stayed on the phone long enough I would have reminded him that he hadn’t sent anyone prior to that to let it get where it’s got, like the wild west up here,” Rivera said.

The conversation devolved from there into a heated exchange during which both men traded curses, and Rivera admits that he was the first to “say something crass” because he was upset that Galvin was trying to take credit for his political accomplishments.

He called the entire conversation “unbecoming of a constitutional officer.”

“It goes to heart of why I’m supporting Josh. It’s just so disconnected from reality. It’s just not how we do things anymore. You have to earn people’s support and I don’t know what he expected out that phone call,” Rivera said.

The mayor immediately called Zakim’s campaign to let them know what had happened, but he didn’t plan on saying anything publicly until days went by and the phone call was still bothering him.

Galvin was given multiple days to respond to Rivera’s characterization of the phone and what was said, but did not respond to the News Service’s request for an interview.

Since he was first elected secretary of state in 1994, Galvin has only one time drawn a primary challenger. He defeated John Bonifaz, a constitutional law attorney from Amherst, in the 2006 primary.

Zakim, a 33-year-old councilor from a famous Boston family, has said he was running to offer a fresh perspective on how the Secretary of State’s office can be used as a tool to expand civic participation by increasing opportunities for people to become registered and vote.

“Mayor Rivera is great leader for the people of Lawrence and for the entire Commonwealth, and for Secretary Galvin to threaten and try to intimidate him for supporting our ideas and vision is unfortunate, uncalled for and unsuccessful,” Zakim said.

Zakim said he will run a “positive campaign focused on inclusion and innovation.”

“We’re proud of the wide and diverse support we’ve received so far. Anyone who chooses to back my opponent won’t hear anything from me other than gratitude for choosing to be part of the process,” he continued.

Rivera was first elected mayor in 2013 by a razor thin margin after a recount confirmed his victory over former state lawmaker William Lantigua.

He was re-elected in 2017, but Rivera said that apart from dealing with people in Galvin’s office he had no “real relationship” with the secretary.

An election observer from Galvin’s office in 2013, during Rivera’s first campaign for mayor, found “confusion and overall chaos” at the polls in the city’s preliminary elections, according to local media reports from the time, feeding concerns about voting irregularities in the city that dated back to the 1990s.

Monitors from the state were again sent to Lawrence in 2017 to ensure a smooth election.

Asked if he feared any repercussions from Galvin because of his endorsement of Zakim, Rivera said he can handle himself.

“I wear ties and suits to work and I’m the mayor of my city, but I’m a Lawrence kid and I grew up in the projects so I’m not concerned. I’ll be alright. I know how to deal with bullies,” he said.