Boston City Councilor Zakim Presses Galvin Over Phone Call With Lawrence Mayor Rivera

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BOSTON — Secretary of State William Galvin’s silence following claims made by Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera that Galvin asserted to have played a role in his winning 2013 mayoral race is “very troubling,” the secretary’s Democratic opponent Josh Zakim said on Tuesday.

Zakim, a Boston city councilor who is mounting a primary campaign against the 24-year incumbent, said Galvin owes voters in Lawrence and throughout the state an explanation for why he thinks he deserves credit for Rivera’s narrow victory in 2013 when he won his first term as mayor.

Rivera, as reported by the News Service on Monday, says Galvin called him last month on the night he endorsed Zakim for secretary of state angry that the mayor had taken sides against him. Rivera recalled Galvin, the state’s chief elections officer, telling him, “I made you mayor.”

“It’s pretty disappointing that he hasn’t offered any explanation for what he meant by his claim to have influenced the election in Lawrence. People need to have complete faith that our elections are being administered freely and fairly,” Zakim said on Tuesday.

Galvin did not respond to an interview request before the News Service published the initial story about the phone call between the Brighton Democrat and Rivera, and has not yet said anything publicly about the episode.

“He needs to explain, certainly to the voters in Lawrence, what he meant by that. It’s very troubling and certainly not the type of behavior you’d see from me as secretary of state,” Zakim said.

Whether Galvin’s comments were simply bluster or a reference to more concrete actions taken by the secretary, Zakim said he would leave it to the Ethics Commission or the attorney general’s office to determine whether a more formal investigation is warranted.

Asked whether he is confident his primary election against Galvin scheduled for Sept. 4 will be fair, he said, “I think we want to make sure we’re talking to voters and will rely on local city and town election officials to maintain that.”

Rivera said that Galvin insinuated he deserved credit for the mayor’s 81-vote victory over rival William Lantigua in 2013 because he worked to ensure that the election was fair. “That’s your job,” Rivera said he told Galvin.

Rivera was re-elected to a second four-term term as mayor of Lawrence in 2017.

Zakim said it’s particularly important for Galvin to address what was said in the phone call with Rivera because of the uncertainty over the integrity of elections nationally, stemming from investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest and ongoing threats to voting systems.

“Free and fair elections are certainly top of mind for people these days, as they should be, and if Massachusetts is going to be a leader in voting rights, people’s confidence in those administering those elections needs to be unassailable,” he said.

Another issue that Galvin could clear up if he would offer his side of the story is whether he placed the phone call to Rivera from his State House office. Using state resources, including phones and computers, for political campaigning is a violation of campaign finance rules.

Rivera told the News Service that when Galvin called his cellphone a 617 area code showed up on his caller ID, but the rest of the number was blocked. Calls placed from state government buildings often appear that way on receiving cellphones.

“If he would deign to respond, we could maybe get some answers on that too,” Zakim said.

Galvin’s office referred to his campaign questions raised by Zakim on Tuesday, and Galvin’s campaign did respond to a request for comment.