By Matthew McLaughlin
On September 4th many involved citizens will go to the ballot booth to vote for highly publicized governor and congressional primaries. While people are motivated enough to vote the day after Labor Day for their candidates, even the most informed voter may have questions about other races on the ballot: “What on earth is a Registrar of Deeds? What does the Governor’s Council do? Why is Auditor an elected position?”
Many of these races rarely face challengers and gain little attention when contested. This year, however, there are two down ballot races with great candidates running real campaigns. I strongly support Donna Patalano for District Attorney and Josh Zakim for secretary of state.
The District Attorney is the chief prosecutor responsible for the county. They wield great power when it comes to criminal justice and are largely autonomous in their jobs. I am supporting Donna Patalano because I think she’s bringing the progressive activism needed to an often-overlooked position. I’ve met with Donna several times and believe her to be a kindred spirit when it comes to addressing problems of substance abuse and the failed war on drugs. I’ve expressed my desire to see drug courts in the district that gives addicts opportunities to seek treatment rather than put them through the revolving door that is our prisons. She is a strong advocate for these issues and transparency in criminal justice. Donna believes justice does not just mean punishment, but fairness as well. She believes people in power should be held to the same standards that we hold the poor and vice versa. Her web site donna4da.com highlights extensively her qualifications and the differences from her opponent.
Josh Zakim is a city councilor in Boston. I’ve been impressed with his leadership on expanding voter opportunities, support for the immigrant community and civil rights issues long before he announced his candidacy for Secretary of State, which is responsible for the Commonwealth’s elections, among other responsibilities. Josh is running a campaign to expand and encourage voting rights. He supports same day voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting and ranked choice voting. Josh also doesn’t support holding an election the day after Labor Day when many people may not vote. That alone is a good reason to vote for him the day after Labor Day.
Both candidates’ races are already a success simply by challenging entrenched incumbents who otherwise would face no public scrutiny. Massachusetts approved automatic voter registration this year, something the current Secretary of State did not accomplish in the previous 23 years in office. I mark this as a victory for Zakim and democracy more than for the incumbent.
Donna Patalano’s incumbent opponent is also taking her progressive stances, despite spearheading efforts to detain people for unwarranted time periods and refusing to investigate police misconduct due to “conflicts of interest.” Patalano will have no such conflicts and her progressive credentials are unquestionable.
Positions like District Attorney, Secretary of State and others are often overlooked by the public and the media. As a result they are often filled by complacent bureaucrats who’s main motivation is preserving the status quo and keeping their jobs. This year we have the opportunity to elect highly qualified activists to some of these seats. I highly support Josh Zakim for Secretary of State and Donna Patalano for District Attorney and hope more progressive candidates take up the call to challenge these overlooked positions in the future.