He's been in office for 11 years, has $1.7 million in his campaign account, and is one of the best known Democrats in the state. But Secretary of State William F. Galvin is battling furiously to avoid a primary fight.
Galvin, the only statewide incumbent with a challenger from his own party, is telling delegates to next week's Democratic Party convention that his opponent, voting rights lawyer John C. Bonifaz, should be denied a spot on the September primary because he isn't really a Democrat.
``He has a long history of involvement with the Greens," asserts Galvin, referring to the Green Party, which lost its designation as an official political party in 2004 and is now called the Green-Rainbow party. ``He has failed to support Democratic candidates. Democrats have to scrutinize his candidacy. Is it real or a Green Trojan horse?"
But Bonifaz, a nationally known lawyer, says he's in the campaign to win -- as a Democrat.
``I am a Democrat," said the 39-year-old Jamaica Plain resident. ``I am raising basic questions about his record and the state of the democracy in Massachusetts. What's wrong with that? What's wrong with giving voters a choice? The idea there is a broad conspiracy here is funny. It's crazy. This is beginning to sound paranoid. What is he afraid of?"
Bonifaz, executive director of the National Voting Rights Institute, brought suit on behalf of 2004 Green and Libertarian presidential candidates demanding a full recount of votes in Ohio.
He also sued George Bush to block the invasion of Iraq and sued Texaco for allegedly polluting the
More recently, Bonifaz has been questioning Galvin's oversight of elections across the state. That task is only one of the secretary of state's responsibilities, which also include managing the state's public records and corporate filings as well as regulating the securities industry.
Bonifaz charges that Galvin has stood in the way of electoral reform, by failing to push same-day voter registration. He also says Galvin did not do enough to correct voting problems in four Massachusetts cities: Lawrence, Springfield, Lowell, and Boston. The city of Boston last year entered a consent decree with the US Justice Department to print ballots in multiple languages.
``There are people unfortunately in entrenched power situations who are not interested in advancing electoral reform, because it creates greater competition and brings newer voters to the polls," Bonifaz said in an interview.
``The record of this secretary of state is one that has been, at best, silence in the face of basic voting rights violations and, at worst, resistance to electoral reform," he said.
Galvin bristles at the criticism, saying that since taking office he has increased by nearly a million the number of registered voters in the state.
He also outlawed punch-card voting machines because they were inaccurate in 1997, three years before they became the focus of attention in the contested Gore-Bush campaign in Florida. He said he supports same-day voter registration, but only if it is standardized across the state.
``My record is being attacked and inaccurately portrayed," Galvin said. ``I don't take people making misstatements about my record lightly. Let me put it simpler: He's been trashing my record from one end of the state to the other."
But mostly Galvin is talking about Bonifaz's ties to Green Rainbow candidates and supporters. Jill Stein, the Green Rainbow Party candidate for secretary of state, donated to his campaign in April and signed his nomination papers. Several Green Party donors have also contributed to Bonifaz's campaign.
``There is evidence of collusion between Mr. Bonifaz and Jill Stein," said Galvin, 55, of Brighton, a former longtime state representative.
``He claims to want to be the Democratic nominee to run against her, but by accepting support from her you have to wonder if this isn't a trick between him and the Greens to benefit her. Remember she's the only other candidate."
He added: ``If Tom Reilly accepted $100 from Kerry Healey, wouldn't it raise a red flag?"
Bonifaz, who conceded that he voted for Ralph Nader for president in 2000, called Galvin's charges a ``red herring."
``I've never been a member of the Green Party," Bonifaz said. ``I've never been registered Green."
He said he signed nomination papers for both Stein and Galvin. ``I believe everyone should be on the ballot, including my opponents," said Bonifaz, who received a MacArthur Foundation genius grant in 1999. ``I have a different view of democracy. My view is that voters deserve choices and electoral competition is healthy for the process."
He scoffed at the suggestion that he is running to help Stein by forcing Galvin to spend heavily in a primary fight.
If Stein wins at least 3 percent of the vote in November, a threshold she met when she ran for governor in 2002, the Green-Rainbow Party would regain its official party rights and would then be assured a place on the ballot in the next presidential election.
Stein, a Lexington physician, called Galvin's charge that she is conspiring with Bonifaz a smoke screen and ``clearly an effort to sort of undermine two credible campaigns."
Philip W. Johnston, chairman of the Democratic Party, said that if it is true that Bonifaz was ``an active Nader and Green Party supporter over the past few years," he will have a hard time winning the 15 percent of the delegates necessary to have his name placed on the September primary ballot.
``If that's not accurate, he should let people know it," said Johnson. ``If it is accurate, most people will have a problem supporting him -- most delegates, including me."