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Was that really a debate? Zakim and Galvin spar about whether they’ve sparred

Boston city councilor and candidate for Massachusetts secretary of state Josh Zakim. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

When Secretary of State William Galvin and his primary challenger, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, appeared before the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee at the local high school in mid-June, they gave opening statements. They took questions. They laid out policy platforms.

But, did they debate?

That question arose this week when Zakim blasted Galvin for refusing to debate him in any of the six public events he has proposed.

“Traditionally, the two campaigns take some time to talk with each other, compare schedules and then come up with dates acceptable to both of them,” said Zakim, in a press release. “But in this campaign we’ve heard nothing at all.”


That left Galvin insiders scratching their heads. The local Swampscott newspaper had published a story chronicling their face-off, with video.

There was a similar event in Brookline, the Galvin campaign argued.

And, they said, both candidates just presented themselves to voters at the convention. A similar event is planned before the Newton Democratic City Committee on July 17.

“There have been two debates, in Brookline and Swampscott. There are pending debates I fully expect to participate in,” Galvin said in a statement. (The candidates have also been invited to a debate hosted by the Globe, WBUR, and the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston.)

A Zakim spokesperson said the councilor is looking for a debate with Galvin in which the candidates engage each other. He said that candidate forums, while important for residents, do not constitute real debates of policies.

“Since Bill Galvin hasn’t debated an opponent in nearly two decades, maybe he’s forgotten what a public debate looks like or actually is,” spokesman Jon Tapper said. “Bill Galvin is ducking debates, plain and simple. But Josh’s invitation to debate him stands, anytime, anywhere.”


Jim Peterson, the vice president of the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee, who moderated the June event, agreed that it was originally billed as a forum.

But, he said, it seemed like a debate, too.

“It was a back and forth. If I looked at it, I would call it a debate,” he said.

Peterson said he has not publicly endorsed either candidate. The Town Committee doesn’t endorse, and individual members seem split among the candidates, he said. He said both candidates represented themselves well, so he didn’t want to take a side in the debate about the debate.

He was just glad his town committee has been recognized as one of the original face-offs between the two candidates.

“We did have close to 100 people and a reporter there,” he said.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.