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Pressley backs Sullivan’s campaign

Sullivan seeks win similar to Ayanna’s in ‘18

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Pressley backs Sullivan’s campaign
Tanisha Sullivan was joined by supporters including U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune and state representatives Nika Elugardo and Russell Holmes during a canvassing event in Mattapan Square Saturday. BANNER PHOTO

Last Saturday morning, Tanisha Sullivan was in Mattapan Square firing up several dozen volunteers to knock doors in support of her campaign for secretary of state.

Motivating volunteers on a hot summer morning can be a bit of a lift, but Sullivan had help, with U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and state Rep. Russell Holmes rallying the crowd of volunteers.

“How you campaign is how you govern,” Pressley told the volunteers. “Tanisha will be a bold, inclusive, collaborative secretary of state.”

Sullivan is taking on 28-year incumbent William Galvin in what some political observers say is a long-shot bid. A June poll by UMass Amherst showed Sullivan trailing Galvin with 21% support among likely voters to 35%.

Pressley told Sullivan’s supporters that she herself had polled 13 points behind former incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano just a week before the September 2018 primary, but she bested him by 18 points in the actual primary vote.

“Don’t ride the roller-coaster,” she said. “You cannot poll transformation.”

Sullivan is campaigning on a promise to use the office of the secretary of state to expand democracy and transparency in Massachusetts even as Supreme Court rulings and Republican governors and legislatures across the country are curtailing the right to vote. She advocates using the office to bring greater access to public records and streamlining the process for registering businesses and nonprofits.

While working to energize the campaign volunteers, which included members of SEIU locals 509 and 1199, Unite Here Local 26 and Greater Boston Building Trades Unions, Sullivan kept the focus on the big picture.

“We’re in a time when our values as a nation are under a direct assault,” she said. “That assault is directly focused on attacking the very structures that have allowed us collectively to advance, to move forward over the last half century. If we don’t treat this moment with the urgency that it requires, then the promises that we have all been hoping for, believing for, working toward — they will all fade away.”

In addition to Pressley and Holmes, Sullivan was joined by state Rep. Nika Elugardo, at-large City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune and political activists including Cecily Graham, Jean-Claude Sanon and Shirley Shillingford.

Sullivan has won endorsements from elected officials and political activists across the state. During the Democratic state convention in June, she secured 62% of the delegates, gaining the party’s nomination.

But for her to win against an incumbent who has more than $2 million in his campaign war chest, Sullivan will have to rely on the same desire for transformation that enabled Pressley to win against Capuano in ’18. Sullivan’s campaign manager, Cheryl Crawford, who is on leave from her job as executive director of the nonprofit MassVOTE, said Sullivan will benefit by the presence of Pressley, former City Councilor Andrea Campbell and other Black women on the 2022 primary ballots.

While Galvin will likely benefit from his incumbency and the campaign cash that will buy him air time, Sullivan, who had raised $333,931 by the June 30 reporting date, will likely have to rely more heavily on her ground game. Her campaign has coordinators in all regions of the state, and Sullivan herself has crisscrossed the state, attending Democratic town committee meetings, parades and other staples of the campaign season.

“Every day, every week, we’re picking up endorsements — support from elected officials and organizations, labor and community organizations,” Sullivan said. “It just keeps coming.”

Crawford said Sullivan’s victory in the convention has been helpful in getting her support around the state. The delegates to the convention — elected officials and grassroots activists — can help amplify her message.

“These are the gatekeepers, the influencers,” Crawford said. “We have a clear path to victory. We know where we need to get the votes.”

Pressley is also stumping for Campbell, who is running for Massachusetts Attorney General, and Ricardo Arroyo, running for Suffolk County District Attorney, while working to fend off a challenge from Dorchester Republican Donnie Palmer. She said her focus is on getting supporters to turn out and vote.

“I want to make sure people don’t stay home,” Pressley told the Banner. “I want to make sure that people know that the reasons they’re frustrated are the reasons we need better representation.”

In Boston, where Sullivan has a strong base of support, and around the state, voter participation has been down in recent years. Sullivan says her campaign intends to inspire people to turn out and vote.

“Low voter participation is a crisis in Massachusetts,” she said. “We’ve got to work for the democracy we want. We’ve got to work for the democracy we deserve, and that’s why I’m running for secretary of state.”

Sullivan and Galvin will face off in debates on Aug. 8 with WCVB, The Boston Globe and WBUR, and on Aug. 10 with GBH News. The primary election is Tuesday, Sept. 6. The Democratic finalist in the secretary of state race will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot with Republican Rayla Campbell.