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Abortion, the death penalty and 15 ‘no-show’ votes. This is the primary for Secretary of State.

Longtime incumbent Bill Galvin and his challenger Josh Zakim (right) in their first and only scheduled televised debate in the secretary of state’s race before the primary election. Meredith Nierman / WGBH New

In one advertisement, Secretary of State William F. Galvin is portrayed as a man of the people who helped an elder gentleman recoup stolen money.

In another, he’s a villain who voted to bring back the death penalty, opposes abortion, and once supported a ban on letting same-sex couples adopt children.

In one other spot, challenger Josh Zakim, a Boston City Councilor, is described as a progressive leader. In another, he’s a no-show at the polls who is beholden to Wall Street.

Can you guess whose television advertisement is whose?

With only weeks before the Sept. 4 primary, and following a rancorous first televised debate Tuesday, the campaigns advertisements for Galvin and Zakim illustrate just how divisive the race has become.


Galvin who has held the office for 24 years, first rolled out a flattering spot portraying his work to police the securities industry. An elder man appears, proclaiming, “I felt there was a scam going on, and my retirement money was disappearing.” The next segment highlights a newspaper clipping from Investment News on June 4 labeling Galvin the “most widely feared securities regulator.”

Zakim has a different take on Galvin.

In one 15-second segment, a voiceover states that Galvin voted to bring back the death penalty, for a ban on same-sex adoptions, as well as his opposition to same-day and mail-in voter registration. And, it states, he voted voted to ban abortion, including in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.

“Bill Galvin said he hates the word progressive. And his record proves why,” the voiceover states.

Galvin’s purported reference to progressives was based on an interview he had with the Globe in July, in which he said “I hate to use that word” (progressive) when describing his lobbying for new automatic voter registration laws.


The votes on abortion, adoptions and the death penalty were in the early 1980s, when Galvin was a state legislator. And though he did not deny the votes in an interview, he said some of them were more reflective of procedure than policy — they were in the forms of budget amendments rather than law, for instance.

He said he vaguely recalls two death penalty votes, though he said one of them was intended to let voters have a say in the form of a referendum, which he supported. As policy, he said, he opposes the death penalty. He called abortion a personal moral choice that has nothing to do with the secretary of state’s work. And he pointed out that he voted in the 1980s to extend benefits to same-sex couples, and he has spoken out in support of gay marriage.

Galvin questioned the allegation that he opposed mail-in registration, saying he implemented the practice as secretary in the 1990s. And he said he supports same-day registration, as long as there is a proper practice in place.

But Zakim has argued that voters deserve to know a candidate’s values, even if those positions do not relate to the secretary of state duties. And in a separate 15-second video, he touts his progressive vision.

“Massachusetts must show people what progress looks like,” he said.

After Tuesday’s debate, Galvin fired back with a new video, set to air Friday. In it, he points out that Zakim — running for the post that oversees elections — has failed to vote in 15 of them, including in the elections for former governor Deval Patrick in 2006, and former US senator John Kerry’s presidential bid in 2004.


“No-show Zakim,” the voice over claims. “He doesn’t bother to vote. Let’s not vote for him.”

In their Tuesday debate, Zakim said he was in college in Philadelphia in 2004, acknowledging that he didn’t vote in Pennsylvania.

The Galvin campaign did not immediately return a request for more information about the other elections in which they say Zakim failed to cast a ballot.

The Galvin campaign said it spent about $220,000 producing and airing its first video, which appeared the first week of August. The Zakim campaign said it spend “several hundred thousand dollars” airing the ads, and they will run through the primary.

It was not immediately clear how much Galvin’s newest ad cost, or how long it will run.

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