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Heated secretary of state primary ends with Galvin topping Zakim

Secretary of State William Galvin, flanked by his wife Eileen, gave a victory speech at the Stockyard in Brighton on Tuesday night.Michael Swensen for The Boston Globe

Secretary of State William Galvin fended off his fiercest challenge in more than two decades Tuesday, defeating Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim in what had been an unusually heated primary battle for the relatively low-profile seat.

With about 67 percent of precincts reporting, Galvin had received 60 percent of the vote, placing him on solid footing as he heads into the Nov. 6 general election against Republican challenger and political newcomer Anthony Amore. Galvin, 67, who was first elected to the post in 1994, has said this is likely to be his last election.

“It’s rare that you have the opportunity that you get to continue to do something you really like. I do enjoy this,” Galvin told about two dozen supporters at the Stockyard restaurant in Brighton, the neighborhood he first represented as a state legislator some 40 years ago.


He said he was looking forward to continue working to improve the state’s election system, predicting the 2020 elections could be the most important in the country’s history since the Civil War. And he said he was most impressed Tuesday by the turnout of young voters.

“I think everybody in this country recognizes the importance about the electoral process,” Galvin said, adding, “It has been a long campaign, and it hasn’t always been a pleasant campaign, but I’m grateful for the support we received tonight.”

Zakim said in a statement that he was thankful for the opportunity to push his agenda, particularly on improving voter access, pointing out that the state passed automatic voter legislation after his campaign began.

Bill Galvin, Anthony Amore, and Josh Zakim.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

“This campaign got people talking – got people excited – for a secretary of state race. That’s not easy,” he said. “And I’m very excited for the future.”

The contest began when Zakim, 34, announced his challenge in November, portraying his candidacy as an opportunity to bring a fresh, progressive attitude to what he characterized as a stale office.


Zakim argued that the state could do more to improve voter turnout, and to safeguard the elections process. Galvin countered that his challenger did not have the experience or know-how to be secretary of state. He also noted that Zakim had skipped casting ballots in more than a dozen elections since he became eligible to vote.

The secretary of state oversees elections and monitors the financial industry in Massachusetts, polices the state’s public records system, and is in charge of the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Zakim rode a wave of momentum following the Democratic convention in June, when he defied odds by winning the party’s endorsement. The defeat was a reality check for Galvin. Known for his sharp elbows, he has not faced a primary challenger in more than a decade.

Zakim went on the offensive this summer, spotlighting several votes Galvin took three decades ago as a state legislator that he said were inconsistent with the party’s progressive values — including Galvin’s votes for the death penalty and to restrict abortion. Galvin argued that Zakim had distorted his record, and that the policy issues he was highlighting had nothing to do with the duties of a secretary of state.

On Tuesday, the lone Republican candidate, Anthony Amore, the security chief at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, said he was glad that the primary is over.


“Now I can move forward and get my platform out there, my vision for the secretary of state’s office,” said Amore. “We’re looking forward to bringing the office into the next decade,” he said.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at