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Tanisha Sullivan announces bid for secretary of state

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Tanisha Sullivan announces bid for secretary of state

NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan announced Tuesday that she is running for Secretary of the Commonwealth, releasing a campaign video.

Sullivan, who lives in Hyde Park, called the office of the secretary of state a “gateway between residents and government” in an interview with the Banner.

“I’m running to help ensure we have an open democracy so folks can not only see themselves in government, but understand how government works for them,” she said.

Sullivan will face 28-year incumbent Secretary of State William Francis Gavin, should he run for re-election. Galvin, who was first elected as a state representative in 1975, last faced a Democratic opponent in 2018 when he defeated former City Councilor Josh Zakim with 67% of the 641,097 votes cast in the primary. He went on to win the general election against Republican Anthony Amore with 70% of the 2.6 million votes cast. Galvin currently reports $1.9 million cash on hand in his campaign account.

Sullivan’s challenge comes as women of color have made unprecedented strides in the electoral arena in recent years, including the victories of U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, former Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

“I got into this race after much thought and deliberation,” Sullivan said. “After much research on what it would take for us to win. I wouldn’t be in this race if I didn’t believe we could win.”

If successful, Sullivan would be the first woman and first person of color to hold the office in the state’s history.

Sullivan said she’s working with a national campaign consulting group, New Ground Strategies, to build out a campaign team. She is also working with Massachusetts-based Field First on developing a statewide voter-engagement strategy.

“We have folks who have documented experience and success working on statewide campaigns,” Sullivan said. “I’m super-excited and looking forward to making staffing announcements in the coming weeks.”

Sullivan grew up in Brockton and graduated from University of Virginia before obtaining law and business degrees from Boston College. She has spent much of her legal career representing life sciences businesses and doing pro-bono work on behalf of workers and small businesses.

In addition to administering state elections and voter registrations, the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth registers corporations and maintains the state’s corporate database, registers lobbyists, arbitrates public records requests, and enforces state laws on the sale and brokerage of stocks and securities. The office also manages the state’s archives.

Sullivan said the most common question she’s received from people with whom she’s spoken about her run for the seat is, “What does the secretary of state actually do?”

“That question came from folks who were my neighbors on the street, to folks who are C-suite executives,” she said. “That tells me that we’ve got to make sure we are using this campaign to educate our neighbors. How can we have a full, vibrant democracy if folks don’t know what the secretary of state does?”

Sullivan describes the seat as an important interface between the state’s residents and key functions of state government.

“It is the gateway connector between government and its residents,” she said. “When we talk about the secretary of state, people think about voting — but a strong, vibrant democracy doesn’t begin and end with voting. It also includes providing residents with access to information about government. It is fully my intention to shine a light on all this office does, so we can see all that it can be.”