Boston Councilor Zakim Running For Secretary Of State

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The longest serving statewide elected official in Massachusetts will have a challenger for re-election in 2018, from within his own party.

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim plans to announce Tuesday that he will challenge Secretary of State William Galvin for the Democratic nomination next year to be the state's chief elections officer, securities industry regulator and public records law enforcer.

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim announced he is running for secretary of state, challenging longtime incumbent William Galvin. (Courtesy Josh Zakim Facebook page)
Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim announced he is running for secretary of state, challenging longtime incumbent William Galvin. (Courtesy Josh Zakim Facebook page)

Zakim, a 33-year-old whose family name adorns the bridge serving as a gateway to Boston from the north, is looking to parlay his four-plus years on the city council into a campaign, that if successful, would culminate in a major upset of party stalwart who has coasted to re-election five times since he first won the office in 1994.

"Twenty-four years is a long time and I think we need to be looking at new ways of doing things," Zakim said in a interview.

Zakim, a Back Bay resident and attorney, was first elected to the city council in 2013 and won a third term this month, enabling him to seek the secretary of state's office without putting his council seat on the line.

Galvin has faced a Democratic challenger only once since winning the secretary of state's office in 1994. Constitutional law and voting rights attorney John Bonifaz ran for the party nomination in 2006. Galvin easily held off Bonifaz, capturing over 68 percent of the primary vote to Bonifaz's 14 percent.

Zakim supports automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration, criticizing Galvin's office for appealing a Superior Court ruling this summer that struck down a state law requiring voters to be registered at least 20 days prior to an election in order to participate.

"That's the sort of behavior I would expect from elected officials in Alabama or someplace like that, not here in Massachusetts," Zakim said.

Galvin's office said at the time that the judge's ruling would lead to "administrative chaos." Zakim said that Galvin should have recognized the problem and worked to make it easier for people to vote.

"At a time when voting rights are under attack across the country, being led out of the White House and the party controlling Congress, we need to not just be making the status quo. We need to be talking about how do we lead in Massachusetts," Zakim said.

In addition to elections, the secretary of state's office services as the state's chief securities regulator, oversees public records and lobbyists, and runs the corporations division, the historical commission, and the Massachusetts Archives.

Zakim said that, if elected, he would ensure that anyone seeking public records would receive a prompt response from his office "in an affordable way" and make sure that securities investors are treated fairly.

"There's a lot this office can and should be doing, and I think it's time that we look at ways to be bolder," Zakim said.

Galvin, 67, recently made known his intentions to seek a seventh term in 2018, and through the middle of November he had $663,982 in his campaign account. He told the News Service that ensuring an accurate 2020 Census count is a priority, mentioning the importance of counting all immigrants, college students and senior citizens.

In his recent re-election efforts, Galvin has run largely under-the-radar campaigns, eschewing debates with his Republican challengers and quietly sliding back into office with ease.

"I think the voters deserve to have public debates. They deserve to hear from the incumbent. I would look forward to public debates and forums," said Zakim, who suggested he could break through the noise in a cycle that will features races for governor and U.S. Senate with a message of "inclusiveness."

He said, "It's not about who has the most money in the bank. We are going to compete in every corner of the state and I think we have a message that resonates around, first, making sure everyone who wants to and is eligible is able to participate in our democracy." Zakim has $370,196 in his city council campaign account.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Northeastern University School of Law, he began his career at Greater Boston Legal Services representing families facing foreclosure.

On the city council representing District 8, Zakim chairs the Committee on Housing and Community Development and the special Committee on Civil Rights, which he has used to push for voting access changes that would make it easier to register voters during the course of their basic interactions with the city, such as applying for a library card.

Zakim lives in the Back Bay with his wife Grace Sullivan Zakim.