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Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan launches campaign for secretary of state

President of the Boston chapter of the NAACP Tanisha Sullivan speaks to the media in August 2017. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
President of the Boston chapter of the NAACP Tanisha Sullivan speaks to the media in August 2017. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Promising to make public records accessible and expand voting rights, attorney and life sciences executive Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, launched her campaign for secretary of state Tuesday morning.

A University of Virginia alumna who earned graduate degrees in law and business from Boston College, Sullivan spent most of her legal career representing life sciences companies. As a volunteer, she has focused on improving opportunities for workers, small business owners, and communities, according to her campaign. She took the volunteer job leading the local NAACP chapter in 2017, helming an organization committed to eliminating systemic racism and discrimination.

"We are at an inflection point in our democracy, and the challenges before us demand urgent, collective action," Sullivan, 47, of Hyde Park, said in a statement. "In light of obstructionism that continues to stand in the way of federal action on voting rights, it falls to state leaders to protect and expand the right of every Massachusetts resident to participate in our government, and to show what a truly inclusive, representative democracy looks like."

Secretary of State William Galvin hasn't said if he plans to seek reelection this year, telling people to "draw their own conclusions" but also saying he enjoys his job.

After losing his bid for state treasurer in 1990 to Republican Joe Malone, Galvin has run off seven straight wins. He beat Democratic primary challengers in 2018 (Josh Zakim) and 2006 (Jon Bonifaz). Sullivan is running for secretary of state as a Democrat.

Galvin's defeated Republican opponents include Anthony Amore, David D'arcangelo, William Campbell, Jack E. Robinson, Dale Jenkins Jr. and Arthur Chase.

A statewide post, the secretary of state's office oversees a broad suite of functions, ranging from elections and voting to corporations and securities, public records, lobbyists, the decennial census, and historical commission and state archives.

Raised in Brockton, Sullivan's family has roots in Boston, where her father retired in 2014 as the school leader at the O'Bryant School. Her mother worked in media before opening a home daycare, according to her campaign, and "helping connect and amplify Black-owned businesses across New England as publisher of the Black Pages of New England." In her launch video Sullivan cited inspiration from her parents.

Sullivan's career at Genzyme, now Sanofi Genzyme, dates to 2009, according to LinkedIn. Her current job there is associate general counsel, industrial affairs. From 2013 to 2015, she was chief equity officer for the Boston Public Schools.

Sullivan is also a member of the board of advisors at WGBH, according to LinkedIn, and a member of the board of advisors at the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy, and was state coordinator of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority for six years, ending in 2020.

With party caucuses about to kick off and fuel debate over candidate choices, the Legislature still hasn't set a date for the September primary elections.

Debate is also expected to escalate this year on proposals to reinstitute early voting and mail-in voting reforms that took hold earlier in the pandemic, and on proposals to allow unregistered voters to register and vote on the same day.

If he does seek and win an eighth term in office next year, Galvin could surpass former Secretary Frederic Cook's record 28-year tenure.

Attorney General Maura Healey and Treasurer Deb Goldberg have also not announced their election plans, although Goldberg said during a radio interview in December that she loves her job and looks forward to working with the next governor.

This article was originally published on January 18, 2022.

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